Theodore of Tarsus
Found in: Turkish Roman Catholic saints
Theodore was the eighth Archbishop of Canterbury, best known for his reform of the English Church and establishment of a school in Canterbury with major scholarly achievements. He is commemorated as a saint in the Calendar of Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church on September 19.
Theodore's life can be divided into the time before his arrival in Britain as Archbishop of Canterbury, and his archiepiscopate. Until recently, scholarship on Theodore had focused on only the latter period since it is attested to in the Venerable Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English, and also in Stephanus's Life of Wilfrid, whereas no source directly mentions Theodore's earlier activities. However, M. Lapidge and B. Bischoff have reconstructed his earlier life based on a study of texts produced from his Canterbury school. Below their work is followed closely concerning the first half of Theodore's life.
Theodore was born in Tarsus in Cilicia, a diocese of the Byzantine Empire. Theodore's childhood experienced devastating wars between Byzantium and the Persian Empire, which resulted in the capture of Antioch, Damascus, and Jerusalem in 613-14. Tarsus was captured by Persian forces when Theodore was 11 or 12. There is evidence that Theodore experienced Persian culture.Lapidge, "The Career of Archbishop Theodore", in Archbishop Theodore, pp. 8-9 It is most likely that he studied at Antioch, the historic home of a distinctive school of exegesis, of which he was a proponent.Lapidge, Career of Theodore p. 4 Theodore also was familiar with Syrian culture, language and literature, and may even have traveled to Edessa. Lapidge, Career of Theodore pp. 7-8
Though it was possible for a Greek to live under Persian rule, the Arab conquests, including Tarsus in 637, certainly drove Theodore west; if he had not fled earlier, Theodore would have been 35. Lapidge, Career of Theodore p.10 Following this, he studied in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, including the subjects of astronomy, ecclesiastical computus, astrology, medicine, Roman civil law, Greek rhetoric and philosophy, and use of horoscope. Lapidge, Career of Theodore p17-18
At some time before the 660s Theodore had come to Rome and was living with a community of Eastern monks, likely at the monastery of St. Anastasias. Lapidge, Career of Theodore pp. 21-22 At this time, in addition to his already profound Greek intellectual inheritance, he became learned in Latin literature, both sacred and secular.Bede, Historia ecclesiastica 4.1 In 667, when Theodore was 66, the see of Canterbury was vacant, and the man chosen to fill the post unexpectedly died. Wighard had been sent to Pope Vitalian by Ecgberht, king of Kent, and Oswy, king of Northumbria, for consecration as archbishop. Following Wighard's death, Theodore was chosen upon the recommendation of Hadrian . Theodore was consecrated as archbishop of Canterbury in Rome on 26 March 668, and sent to England with Hadrian, arriving on 27 May 669.
Archbishop of Canterbury
Theodore conducted a survey of the English church, appointed various bishops to sees that had been vacant for some time,Bede, Historia ecclesiastica IV.2 — appointments: Bisi to East Anglia, Putta to Rochester, Hlothhere to Wessex, and Ceadda after reconsecration to Mercia. and then called the Synod of Hertford to institute reforms concerning the proper celebration of Easter, episcopal authority, itinerant monks, the regular convening of subsequent synods, marriage and prohibitions of consanguinity, and others.Canons of Hertford, preserved in Bede, Historia ecclesiastica IV.5 He also proposed dividing the large diocese of Northumbria into smaller sections, a policy which brought him into conflict with Bishop Wilfrid, whom Theodore himself had appointed to the See of York. Theodore deposed and expelled Wilfrid in 678, dividing his dioceses in the aftermath. The conflict with Wilfrid was not finally settled until 686687.
In 679, Aelfwine, the brother of King Ecgfrith of Northumbria, was killed in battle against the Mercians. Theodore's intervention prevented the escalation of the war and resulted in peace between the two kingdoms, with King Athelred of Mercia paying weregild compensation for Aelfwine's death.Bede, Historia ecclesiastica, Book IV, chapter 21.
Theodore and Hadrian established a school in Canterbury resulting in a "golden age" of Anglo-Saxon scholarship.
They attracted a large number of students, into whose minds they poured the waters of wholesome knowledge day by day. In addition to instructing them in the holy Scriptures, they also taught their pupils poetry, astronomy, and the calculation of the church calendar Never had there been such happy times as these since the English settled Britain;Bede, Historia ecclesiastica IV.2, trans. D. H. Farmer
Theodore also taught sacred music,Bede Historia ecclesiastica, IV.2. introduced various texts, knowledge of Eastern saints, and may even have been responsible for the introduction of the Litany of the Saints, a major liturgical innovation, into the West.Bischoff and Lapidge, Biblical Commentaries p. 172 Some of his thought is accessible in the Biblical Commentaries, notes compiled by his students at the Canterbury school. Of immense interest is the text, recently attributed to him, called Laterculus Malalianus.J. Stevenson, The Laterculus Malalianusand the School of Archbishop Theodore Overlooked for many years, it was rediscovered in the 1990s, and has since been shown to contain numerous interesting elements reflecting Theodore's trans-mediterranean formation.J. Siemens, 'The Restoration of Humankind in the Laterculus Malalianus, 14' in The Heythrop Journal He called other synods: c. 679 at Hatfield and c. 684 at
Theodore died in 690 at the remarkable age of 88, having held the archbishopric for twenty-two years, and was buried in Canterbury at St. Peter's church.