Felix [St Felix] (d. 647/8), bishop of the East Angles
by Marios Costambeys

Felix [St Felix] (d. 647/8), bishop of the East Angles, was born in the Frankish kingdom of Burgundy. Like all that is known for certain about Felix, his origin is reported by Bede in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum and Bede says that he was ordained in Burgundy. He may have been a member of one of the communities founded in Francia by the Irishman Columbanus, before, inspired by the missionizing ideal of such houses, he travelled to England, and sought out the archbishop of Canterbury, Honorius. In 630 or 631, the archbishop ordained Felix bishop of the East Angles and sent him to that kingdom to preach. His arrival seems to have coincided with the end of a period of disorder that had followed the killing by a pagan of King Earpwald, who had converted to Christianity. The advent to the kingship of Sigeberht, who had adopted Christianity while in exile in Francia, may have been decisive in bringing Felix to East Anglia. Felix was given a see at ‘Dommoc’, which is usually identified with Dunwich, now largely disappeared beneath the sea, but may equally have been Felixstowe, or somewhere else. Felix helped Sigeberht to establish a school ‘where boys could be taught letters’ (Bede, Hist. eccl., 3.18), providing the king with teachers. The notion that this was at Soham is late and unreliable. Sigeberht himself abdicated the kingship and entered a monastery, whence he was later dragged by the East Angles to lead them in battle against the pagan Mercian king, Penda, a battle in which he and his successor Ecgric were slain. Felix's death, seventeen years after he became bishop according to Bede, and therefore in 647 or 648, probably occurred in the reign of Ecgric's successor Anna. It is not known where he was buried, though his relics were later claimed by Ramsey Abbey. In addition to Felixstowe, Suffolk, he may also have given his name to Felixkirk, Yorkshire. Two pre-conquest calendars give his feast on 8 March.

MARIOS COSTAMBEYS

Sources  

Bede, Hist. eccl., 2.15; 3.18, 20 · J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, Bede's Ecclesiastical history of the English people: a historical commentary, OMT (1988) · F. Wormald, ed., English kalendars before AD 1100, 1, HBS, 72 (1934)


© Oxford University Press 2004–14 All rights reserved  

Felix [St Felix] (d. 647/8): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9253