The Mystery Of Whitby

The picturesque little fishing port of Whitby stands on the northeast coast of England, about 200 miles due north of London. Whitby owes its historical significance largely to the ruined abbey that stood there for centuries, having been founded in A.D. 658. Six years later, with the Abbess Hilda overseeing the hospitality for her guests, a great synod was hosted in Whitby, a meeting of ecclesiastical authorities that was in effect to decide the future of the Christian Church throughout the British Isles.

The Synod of Whitby in A.D. 664 has, over the intervening 13 centuries, achieved not only considerable significance in Church history, but also a popular reputation as a mysterious affair. For example, in Absolution by Murder: A Sister Fidelma Mystery, author Peter Tremayne sets his fictional thriller against the factual backdrop of the synod. As the jacket blurb for this 1994 novel explains, "When the Abbess Etain, a leading speaker for the Celtic

Church, is found murdered suspicion inevitably rests on the Roman faction." No such murder actually occurred (and Hilda was the only woman recorded as being directly involved in the synod), but the circumstances invoked by Tremayne are realistic, there being some considerable dispute between those two opposing parties.

Although no murder took place, astronomical truth was assassinated at Whitby, for which there is more than mere circumstantial evidence to suspect the Roman faction. In short, there is a real-life mystery about what transpired at the Synod of Whitby; the full truth still needs to be teased out from the various clues through the eons. In 664 the Roman party carried out a religious sting, fooling the King of Northumbria into rejecting the Celtic overtures and transferring his allegiance to the Roman Church.

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