Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts of events in the history of London.
Anglo-Saxon Londoners reject Christianity
In 731, the Venerable Bede wrote, in his “Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum” (“Ecclesiastical History of the English People”):
“In the Year of our Lord 604, Augustine, Archbishop of Britain, ordained … Mellitus to preach to the province of the East Saxons … . … [W]hen this province … received the word of truth, by the preaching of Mellitus, King Ethelbert built the church of St Paul the Apostle, in the city of London, where he and his successors should have their episcopal see … .
In the year of our Lord 616 … the death of Sabert [Sebert], king of the East Saxons … left three sons, still pagans, to inherit his … crown. They immediately began openly to give themselves up to idolatry, … and … granted free licence to their subjects to serve idols. And when they saw the bishop [Mellitus] … celebrating Mass … , filled, as they were, with folly and ignorance, they said unto him … ‘We will not enter into that font, because we … do not stand in need of it, and yet we will be refreshed by that bread’. And being … earnestly admonished by him, that this could by no means be done, nor would any one be admitted to partake of the sacred Oblation without the holy cleansing, … they said, filled with rage, ‘If you will not comply with us in so small a matter as that which we require, you shall not stay in our province’. And they drove him out … and his company … from their kingdom [Essex]. [And] King Eadbald [King of England] … was not able to restore the bishop to his church against the will and consent of the pagans ”.