Sunday, January 13, 2013

Eadgar and Dunstan. 959—975

Eadgar was known as the Peaceful King. He had the advantage, which Eadwig had not, of having the Church on his side. He maintained order, with the help of Dunstan as his principal adviser. Not long after his accession Dunstan became Archbishop of Canterbury. His policy was that of a man who knows that he cannot do everything and is content to do what he can.

The Danes were to keep their own laws, and not to have English laws forced upon them. The great ealdormen were to be conciliated, not to be repressed. Everything was to be done to raise the standard of morality and knowledge. Foreign teachers were brought in to set up schools. More than this Dunstan did not attempt. It is true that in his time an effort was made to found monasteries, which should be filled with monks living after the stricter rule of which the example had been set at Cluny, but the man who did most to establish monasteries again in England was not Dunstan, but Æthelwold, Bishop of Winchester.

Æthelwold, however, was not content with founding monasteries. He also drove out the secular canons from his own cathedral of Winchester and filled their places with monks. His example was followed by Oswald, Bishop of Worcester. Dunstan did not introduce monks even into his own cathedrals at Worcester and Canterbury. As far as it is now possible to understand the matter, the change, though it provoked great hostility, was for the better. The secular canons were often married, connected with the laity of the neighbourhood, and living an easy life. The monks were celibate, living according to a strict rule, and conforming themselves to what, according to the standard of the age, was the highest ideal of religion. By a life of complete self-denial they were able to act as examples to a generation which needed teaching by example more than by word.

How completely monasticism was associated with learning is shown by the fact that the monks now established at Worcester took up the work of continuing the Chronicle which had been begun under Ælfred

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