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The Vision of St. Wilfrid

Eddius Stephanus, 8th century
Here is the account written by Eddiius, a companion of St. Wilfrid, who was an important Bishop in the 8th century England . Eddius brought the Roman method of chant to England. He wrote the first Life of St. Wilfrid, at the request of Acca, Bishop of Hexham.

More famous among the Saxons as an example of the power of prayers addressed to the Virgin Mary is a history related by Eddius, Bede and Alcuin. I refer to the cure of St. Wilfrid, one of England's greatest Bishops, in the year 704.

st wilfrid

St. Wilfrid was struck with a serious sickness on his way back to England from Rome

The event happened at Meaux in France, when Wilfrid, Bishop of Northumbria, was returning to England from Rome. He was struck down by a severe illness, and brought to the last extremity. For four days he lay as if dead, speechless, and only proving that he lived by a faint breathing.

His disciples stood around him weeping, when suddenly on the fifth day Wilfrid sat up and, opening his eyes, told them how God had sent to him an Angel in white vestments and shining face, who said the following:

"I am Michael, the messenger of the Most High God, who has sent me to announce to you that some years of life are added to you, on account of the intercession of St. Mary, ever Virgin Mother of God, and on account of the tears and prayers of your subjects, which have reached the ears of God.

"And this shall be a sign to you, that you shall at once get better and recover your health, and reach your country; and the principal part of your property shall be restored to you [for he was in exile due to his efforts to reform the English Church to conform with Rome], and you shall end your life in peace.

virgin medieval

Our Lady interceeded &
granted Wilfrid four more years of life

"But be prepared; for after four years I will again visit you. And now, remember, that you have built houses in honor of St. Peter and St. Andrew, the Apostles, but you have built none to St. Mary ever Virgin, who has interceded for you. You must supply this omission, and dedicate a house in her honor."

After these words the Angel of God disappeared. But our holy Prelate, as if roused from sleep, sat up amidst his attendants, who were singing and weeping, and he said: " Where is Acca the priest?"

Acca drew near with joy, thanking God, with them all, that they saw him sitting up and speaking. Then, having sent away the brethren from the place, he revealed the whole vision to his most faithful priest Acca, who is now, by the grace of God, a Bishop of holy fame.

And in fact, on his return to Hexham, St. Wilfrid caused the Church of St. Mary to be erected, of which some remains may be seen near the church of the ancient priory. It was of a form quite new in England, built round, with four porticoes towards the four regions of the world.


Adapted from Our Lady's Dowry: How England Gained that Title
by T. E. Bridgett, London: Burnes and Oates, 1890, pp 256-257

Posted July 10, 2021

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