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Wilfred, the Bishop

The Essay, Anglo-Saxon Portraits Episode 17 of 30

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 29 January 2013

The Anglo Saxons are somewhat out of fashion, yet the half millennium between the creation of the English nation in around 550 and the Norman Conquest in 1066 was a formative one.

This major series rediscovers the Anglo-Saxons through vivid portraits of thirty key individuals.

Clare Stancliffe, from Durham University, captures the epic life of Wilfred. He was born in Northumbria around 634 and left home at 14 to care for a decrepit nobleman at Aidan's monastery on Lindisfarne. But he held a desire to go on pilgramage to Rome. It was in Rome that he experienced the ceremonial style of liturgical music and vestments decorated with silks and gold thread. He introduced the use of a double choir into the Northumbrian church upon his return.

His love of Roman ritual and style influenced his architectural contribution to the church which can still be seen in the crypt of Hexham Abbey.

Producer: Sarah Taylor.


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  • Anglo-Saxon Portraits

    A series which rediscovers the Anglo-Saxons through vivid portraits of individuals.


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