March 8, c. 647: Death of St Felix, first bishop of East Anglia

Felix was born and consecrated in Burgundy, but came to England to help in the conversion of the English. (The fellow-feeling was mutual: in the eighth century a number of the English, most famously Boniface and Willibrord, would return to the continent to convert the heathen on the mainland.)

Felix came to Honorius (c.630-653), fourth archbishop of Canterbury in line from St Augustine who had brought Christianity from Rome to King Æthelberht of Kent in 597. Honorius sent Felix on to East Anglia, which had switched between Christianity and paganism several times since the East Anglian king Rædwald became a Christian at the Kentish court in the first decade or so of the seventh century. (Bede tells the story that when Rædwald got home, his wife convinced him not to abandon his old gods so easily, so Rædwald had shrines to his heathen gods and the Christian god in the same temple.) Rædwald's son Eorpwald succeeded sometime after 616, initially as a pagan but he was converted by the Northumbrian king Edwin sometime around 630. Shortly after Eorpwald became Christian, he was killed, and the country turned pagan again.

It was after Eorpwald's reign that Eorpwald's brother Sigeberht came to the throne. Sigeberht had grown up in exile in Gaul, and become a Christian there, and returned determined to turn East Anglia into a thoroughly Christian kingdom. He established a school with the help of Felix, who was established as the first bishop of the East Angles at Dommoc (probably Dunwich). Bede records that Felix held the bishopric for seventeen years, and then died there in peace; his feast-day is celebrated on the 8th of March.

Review the history, 597-654.