12th March Feast of Gregory the Great

There are two churches dedicated to Gregory the Great on the Norfolk Saints’ Way – at Heckingham, now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust; and at Norwich, in the care of Norwich Historic Churches Conservation Trust. Both are early foundations.

St.Gregory, Heckingham

“Our Gregory!” our Anglo-Saxon forebears called him. He was a great hero to the Ven. Bede. He begins Book II of his Ecclesiastical History England with

At this time, that is, in the year of our Lord 605,4 the blessed Pope Gregory, after having most gloriously governed the Roman Apostolic see thirteen years, six months, and ten days, died, and was translated to an eternal abode in the kingdom of Heaven. Of whom, seeing that by his zeal he converted our nation, the English, from the power of Satan to the faith of Christ, it behoves us to discourse more at large in our Ecclesiastical History, for we may rightly, nay, we must, call him our apostle; because, as soon as he began to wield the pontifical power over all the world, and was placed over the Churches long before converted to the true faith, he made our nation, till then enslaved to idols, the Church of Christ, so that concerning him we may use those words of the Apostle; “if he be not an apostle to others, yet doubtless he is to us; for the seal of his apostleship are we in the Lord.

Bede H.E. Book II Chapter 1
From Antiphonary of Hartker of the monastery of Saint Gall

Best known joke? Non Angli sed Angeli

It is said that one day, when some merchants had lately arrived at Rome, many things were exposed for sale in the market place, and much people resorted thither to buy: Gregory himself went with the rest, and saw among other wares some boys put up for sale, of fair complexion, with pleasing countenances, and very beautiful hair. When he beheld them, he asked, it is said, from what region or country they were brought? and was told, from the island of Britain, and that the inhabitants were like that in appearance. He again inquired whether those islanders were Christians, or still involved in the errors of paganism, and was informed that they were pagans. Then fetching a deep sigh from the bottom of his heart, “Alas! what pity,” said he, “that the author of darkness should own men of such fair countenances; and that with such grace of outward form, their minds should be void of inward grace.” He therefore again asked, what was the name of that nation? and was answered, that they were called Angles. “Right,” said he, “for they have an angelic face, and it is meet that such should be co-heirs with the Angels in heaven. What is the name of the province from which they are brought?” It was replied, that the natives of that province were called Deiri. “Truly are they De ira,” said he, “saved from wrath, and called to the mercy of Christ. How is the king of that province [pg 083]called?” They told him his name was Aelli;0 and he, playing upon the name, said, “Allelujah, the praise of God the Creator must be sung in those parts.”


Bede H.E. Book II Chapter 1

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