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Saints and Feasts of December 12

Friday, September 27, 2019

Saint Sigebert, King of East Anglia (+ 637)

St. Sigebert of East Anglia (Feast Day - September 27)

The principal source for the life of Saint Sigebert is Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which was completed in the 730's. There the following is written:

Book 1, Chapter 15: The Province of East Anglia Receives the Faith of Christ (627 A.D.)

Edwin was so zealous for the worship of truth, that he likewise persuaded Eorpwald, king of the East Saxons, and son of Redwald, to abandon his idolatrous superstitions, and with his whole province to receive the faith and sacraments of Christ. And indeed his father Redwald had long before been admitted to the sacrament of the Christian faith in Kent, but in vain; for on his return home, he was seduced by his wife and certain perverse teachers, and turned back from the sincerity of the faith; and thus his latter state was worse than the former; so that, like the ancient Samaritans, he seemed at the same time to serve Christ and the gods whom he had served before; and in the same temple he had an altar to sacrifice to Christ, and another small one to offer victims to devils; which temple, Aldwulf, king of that same province, who lived in our time testifies had stood until his time, and that he had seen it when he was a boy. The aforesaid King Redwald was noble by birth, though ignoble in his actions, being the son of Tytilus, whose father was Uuffa, from whom the kings of the East Angles are called Uuffings.

Eorpwald was, not long after he had embraced the Christian faith, slain by one Richbert, a pagan; and from the time the province was under error for three years, till the crown came into the possession of Sigebert, brother to the same Eorpwald, a most Christian and learned man, who was banished, and went to live in France during his brother's life, and was there admitted to the sacraments of the faith, whereof he made it his business to cause all his province to partake as soon as he came to the throne. His exertions were much promoted by the Bishop Felix, who coming to Honorius, the archbishop, from Burgundy, where he had been born and ordained, and having told him what he desired, he sent him to preach the word of life to the aforesaid nation of the Angles. Nor were his good wishes in vain; for the pious husbandman reaped therein a large harvest of believers, delivering all that province (according to the signification of his name, Felix) from long iniquity and infelicity, and bringing it to the faith and works of righteousness, and the gifts of everlasting happiness. He had the see of his bishopric appointed him in the city Dommoc, and having presided over the same province with pontifical authority seventeen years, he ended his days there in peace.

Book 2, Chapter 18: Of the Life and Death of the Pious King Sigebert (635 A.D.)

At this time, the kingdom of the East Angles, after the death of Eorpwald, the successor of Redwald, was subject to his brother Sigebert, a good and religious man, who long before had been baptized in France, whilst he lived in banishment, flying from the enmity of Redwald; and returning home, as soon as he ascended the throne, being desirous to imitate the good institutions which he had seen a France, he set up a school for youth to be instructed in literature, and was assisted therein by Bishop Felix, who came to him from Kent, and who furnished him with matters and teachers after the manner of that country.

This king became so great a lover of the heavenly kingdom, that quitting the affairs of his crown, and committing the same to his kinsman, Ecgric, who before held a part of that kingdom, he went himself into a monastery, which he had built, and having received the tonsure, applied himself rather to gain a heavenly throne. Some time after this, it happened that the nation of the Mercians, under King Penda, made war on the East Angles; who, finding themselves inferior in martial affairs to their enemy, entreated Sigebert to go with them to battle, to encourage the soldiers; He refused, upon which they threw him against his will out of the monastery, and carried him to the army, hoping that the soldiers would be less disposed to flee in the presence of him, who had once been a notable and a brave commander. But he, still keeping in mind his profession, whilst in the midst of a royal army, would carry nothing in his hand but a wand, and was killed with King Ecgric; and the pagans pressing on, all their army was either slaughtered or dispersed.


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