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St. Agilbert,
Bishop of Dorchester-on-Thames

(c.AD 625-690)

Agilbert was from a family of Frankish aristocrats living around Soissons. His cousin, Audo, was a friend of St. Columbanus and founded the monastery of Jouarre under Agilbert's sister, Abbess Theochilda. Agilbert lived and worked in Southern Ireland before he was invited, by King Cenwalh of Wessex, to succeed St. Birinus as Bishop of Wessex at Dorchester-on-Thames (Oxfordshire) in AD 650.

However, Agilbert was very imperfectly acquainted with the West Saxon language and, by AD 660, King Cenwalh, was finding that much difficulty arose from the former's ignorance. He therefore decided to divide the kingdom into two dioceses. Agilbert remained in Dorchester, while Wine, a native Saxon, was appointed to the other see, the centre of which was fixed at Winchester (Hampshire). Agilbert, offended by such an arrangement, which had been made without his concurrence, withdrew to Northumbria. Here, he was asked to put the case for the Roman observance of Easter at the famous Synod of Whitby in 664, but, for the most part, relied on St. Wilfred whom he had recently ordained a priest.

Agilbert soon returned to his native country where he became Bishop of Paris in AD 668. He stayed in touch with British affairs though. He ordained Wilfred as bishop at Compeigne and entertained Archibishop Theodore while on his journey to Rome. Two years later, Bishop Wine was expelled from the See of Winchester, after disagreements with Cenwalh. Wessex was for some time without a bishop, until Agilbert, who had, in vain, been entreated to return, recommended his nephew, Leuthere, as a proper person to be ordained in his place. Agilbert died on 1st April AD 690 and was buried with his family at Jouarre. His fine 7th-century sarcophagus can still be seen there in the crypt of the church where he was revered as a saint.

 

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