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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume XII: December. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

December 3

St. Birinus, First Bishop of Dorcester, Confessor

BIRINUS, a priest of Rome, addressed himself to Pope Honorius for leave to preach the gospel to the idolaters in Britain. The pope commended his zeal, and caused him to be ordained bishop. The apostolic missionary landed in the kingdom of the West-Saxons, and, with many others, baptized King Cynegils, who began to reign in 611, and filled the throne thirty-one years, being the sixth from Cerdic, who founded that kingdom in 519. Birinus fixed his see at Dercis, now at Dorchester, on the Thames, in Oxfordshire, upon the edge of Berkshire: 1 he built and consecrated many churches, gained many souls to God, and departing to him was buried in the same city, about the year 650. His remains were translated to Winchester by Bishop Hedda, and there laid in the church of SS. Peter and Paul. Of the painted windows in Dorchester church which have escaped the fury of the plunderers, Mr. Hearne, in his notes on William of Newborough, vol. 3, p. 773, makes this remark: “I know of no truly religious person but what is affected with what now remains of the historical painting in Dorchester windows, relating to Birinus’s voyage thither, and his converting the heathens.” See on St. Birinus, Robert of Gloucester’s Chronicle, p. 247; Bede, l. 3, c. 7, and Neve’s Fasti Anglicani, p. 137. 283.  1
Note 1. The sees of Salisbury, Exeter, Wells, Litchfield, Worcester, and Hereford, were afterwards formed out of this of Dorchester which was soon transferred to Winchester. For Agilbert, a Frenchman, who succeeded St. Birinus, understood not sufficiently the English language; for which reason he returned to France in 660. Wina being appointed bishop of the West-Saxons, at Winchester, Eleutherius, and after him Hedda, in 676, succeeded to that see in the same place. King Oswy appointed, in 650, Dwina, bishop of Litchfield, for the Midland English. In the same country of Mercia another bishopric was erected in 678, when Eadhead was made bishop of Sidnacester; this see was removed to Legecester, now Leicester, in 872, and soon after to Dorchester, which continued the see of the bishops of East Mercia and Lyndsey, till, in 1072, the bishop Remigius of Feschamp translated it to Lincoln. See Godwin, de Præsul. Angl. ed. nov. and Le Neve, p. 138. [back]