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Archbishop of Canterbury
Enthroned unknown
Reign ended 30 September 653
Predecessor Justus
Successor Deusdedit
Consecration 627
Personal details
Born Rome
Died 30 September 653
Buried Church of St. Augustine, Canterbury
Feast day 30 September
Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church
Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion

Honorius (died 30 September 653) was a member of the Gregorian mission to convert the Anglo-Saxons in 597 AD who later became Archbishop of Canterbury. During his archiepiscopate, he consecrated the first native English bishop of Rochester as well as helping the missionary efforts of Felix among the East Anglians. When Honorius died in 653, he was the last of the Gregorian missionaries alive.


Early life

A Roman by birth, he may have been one of those chosen by Gregory the Great for the Gregorian mission to England, although it seems more likely that he was a member of the second party of missionaries, sent in 601.[1][2] It isn't known if his name was given to him at birth or if he chose it when he became archbishop.[3]


In 627, he was consecrated as archbishop by Paulinus of York at Lincoln.[4] Honorius wrote to Pope Honorius I asking the pope to raise the see of York to an archbishopric, so that when one archbishop in England died, the other would be able to consecrate the deceased bishop's successor. The pope agreed, and sent a pallium for Paulinus, but by this time, Paulinus had already been forced to flee from Northumbria.[5] When Paulinus, after the death of King Edwin of Northumbria in October 633, fled Northumbria, he was received by Honorius and appointed to the bishopric of Rochester.[4] The papal letter is dated to June 634, and implies that news of Edwin's death had not reached the pope. This evidence may mean that the traditional date of Edwin's death may need to be moved to October 634.[6] The papal letter may also mean that the traditional date of consecration for Honorius may need re-dating, as a the long gap between 627, when he is said to have been consecrated, and 634, when he finally received a pallium, is much longer than usually found. It may be that Honorius was consecrated closer to 634.[7] The papal letter to Honorius is given in the Ecclesistical History of the medieval writer Bede.[8]

Honorius consolidated the work of converting the English by sending Felix, a Burgundian, to Dunwich[9] after Felix came to the archbishop and made known his desire to go to East Anglia as a missionary.[1] Honorius may have consecrated Felix as the first bishop of East Anglia[10] or Felix may have already have been consecrated on the continent.[9][11] The dating of this episode is unclear, but it is probably close to 631.[7] It is possible that King Sigeberht of East Anglia, who converted to Christianity while he was in exile on the continent, had already met Felix and was behind Felix's journey to Honorius. As well as his help to Felix, Honorius consecrated the first Anglo-Saxon bishop, Itahamar of Rochester,[9] and his successor was also a native of England.[1]

Honorius had few conflicts with the Irish missionary efforts, and admired Aidan, one of the leading Irish clergy.[12]

Death and legacy

Honorius died on 30 September 653,[13] the last of the Gregorian missionaries.[3] He was buried at the Church of St. Augustine's in Canterbury.[5] He was later revered as a saint, with his feast day being 30 September.[10] In the 1120s his relics were still being venerated at St Augustine's.[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Hindley A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons p. 43–45
  2. ^ Stenton Anglo-Saxon England p. 112–113
  3. ^ a b Sharpe "Naming of Bishop Ithamar" English Historical Review p. 3
  4. ^ a b Blair World of Bede pp. 96–97
  5. ^ a b Hunt "Honorius [St Honorius] (d. 653)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  6. ^ Kirby Earliest English Kings p. 56
  7. ^ a b Kirby Earliest English Kings p. 66
  8. ^ Wright Companion to Bede pp. 57–58
  9. ^ a b c Brooks Early History of the Church of Canterbury p. 65–67
  10. ^ a b Walsh A New Dictionary of Saints p. 268
  11. ^ Blair World of Bede p. 107
  12. ^ Mayr-Harting Coming of Christianity p. 94
  13. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 213
  14. ^ Hayward "Absent Father" Journal of Medieval History p. 217 footnote 72


  • Blair, Peter Hunter (1990). The World of Bede (Reprint of 1970 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-39819-3.  
  • Brooks, Nicholas (1984). The Early History of the Church of Canterbury: Christ Church from 597 to 1066. London: Leicester University Press. ISBN 0-7185-0041-5.  
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.  
  • Hindley, Geoffrey (2006). A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons: The Beginnings of the English Nation. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 978-0-78671-738-5.  
  • Hayward, Paul Antony (2003). "An absent father: Eadmer, Goscelin and the cult of St Peter, the first abbot of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury". Journal of Medieval History 29: 201–218. doi:10.1016/S0304-4181(03)00030-7.  
  • Hunt, William (2004). "Honorius (St Honorius) (d. 653)" (fee required). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. revised by N. P. Brooks (October 2005 revised ed.). Oxford University Press.   accessed 7 November 2007
  • Kirby, D. P. (2000). The Earliest English Kings. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-24211-8.  
  • Mayr-Harting, Henry (1991). The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-00769-9.  
  • Sharpe, R. (September 2002). "The Naming of Bishop Ithamar". The English Historical Review 117 (473): 889–894. doi:10.1093/ehr/117.473.889.  
  • Stenton, F. M. (1971). Anglo-Saxon England (Third ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280139-5.  
  • Walsh, Michael J. (2007). A New Dictionary of Saints: East and West. London: Burns & Oats. ISBN 0-8601-2438-X.  
  • Wright, J. Robert (2008). A Companion to Bede: A Reader's Commentary on The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-6309-6.  

Further reading

  • Bevan, Gladys Mary. Portraits of the Archbishops of Canterbury. London: Mowbray. 1908. OCLC 7409358

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by


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