ST. MELLITUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, C.
HE was a Roman abbot, whom St. Gregory sent over hither in 601, at the head of a second colony of missioners to assist St. Austin, by whom he was ordained the first bishop of London, or of the East-Saxons, baptized Sebert the king, with a great part of his nation: and by his liberality, in 604, laid the foundation of the cathedral church of St. Paul’s, and, in 609, of the monastery of St. Peter, at Thorney, which was rebuilt by king Edgar, and again most sumptuously by St. Edward the Confessor, and is now called Westminster. This Christian and learned prince, dying about 616, left his dominions to his three sons, Sexred, Seward, and Sigebert, whom he had not been so happy as to recover from their idolatry, though they had kept their heathenism private during their father’s life. After his death they declared themselves pagans, and gave their subjects the liberty of returning to their former idolatrous worship. Yet when they saw our holy bishop at the altar, and giving the blessed eucharist to the people, they would not be satisfied unless he would give them some of that fine white bread, as they called it, he was used to give their father. He told them their request should be granted, on condition they would be baptized, as their father was; but this they would not hear of, alleging they had no need of baptism, but still insisted on receiving the consecrated bread; and on the bishop’s refusal to gratify them in their unreasonable request, they banished him their dominions. These three princes, after a reign of six years, going on an expedition against the West-Saxons, were all three slain in battle. But though the chief promoters of paganism were taken off, their people, being inured again to idolatry, did not return to the faith before the year 628, according to the Saxon annals. St. Mellitus passed over to France, but soon returned, and upon the death of St. Laurence, in 619, was translated to the see of Canterbury, being the third archbishop of that see. While sick of the gout, he, by his prayers, stopped a furious conflagration which had already laid no small part of that city in ashes, and which no hands had been able to get under. He died April the 24th, 624. See Bede, Le Neve’s Fasti, Goscelin, and Capgrave.
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