Acca of Hexham

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Saint Acca of Hexham
File:The Nave and Tower of Hexham Abbey from the northwest - - 749740.jpg
Hexham Abbey
Abbot & Bishop
Born c. 660
Died 740 or 742
Venerated in Roman Catholicism; Anglicanism; Eastern Orthodoxy
Major shrine Hexham Abbey, Northumberland (part of his cross survives)
Feast 20 October

Acca of Hexham (c. 660 – 740/742) was a Northumbrian saint and Bishop of Hexham from 709 until 732.


File:Acca's cross.JPG
Remnant of cross that stood at Acca's grave, Hexham Abbey

Born in Northumbria, Acca first served in the household of Bosa, the future Bishop of York, but later attached himself to Saint Wilfrid, possibly as early as 678, and accompanied him on his travels. Later he told his friend Bede of their stay at Utrecht with the saintly Archbishop Willibrord, Wilfrid's old pupil who was carrying on his work of converting continental heathens.[1] On the return from their second journey to Rome in 692, Wilfrid was reinstated at Hexham and made Acca abbot of St Andrew's monastery there. During St Wilfrid's later years, Acca was the older man's loyal companion, eventually succeeding him in 709 as abbot and bishop.[1]

Acca tackled his duties with much energy, in ruling the diocese and in conducting the services of the church. He also carried on the work of church building and decorating started by Wilfrid. Acca was both an accomplished musician and a learned theologian.[1] He once brought to the North a famous cantor named Maban, who had learned in Kent the Roman traditions of psalmody handed down from Gregory the Great through Saint Augustine.[2]

Acca was also famous for his theological learning; his theological library was praised by Bede. He was known also for his encouragement of students by every means in his power. It was Acca who persuaded Stephen of Ripon (Eddius) to take on the Life of St. Wilfrid, and he lent many materials for the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum to Bede, who dedicated several of his most important works, especially those dealing with Holy Scripture, to him.[2]

For reasons now unknown Acca either withdrew, or was driven from, his diocese in 732. Hexham tradition says he became bishop of Whithorn in Galloway, Scotland,[3] while others claim he founded a see on the site of St. Andrews, bringing with him relics collected on his Roman tour, including those of St. Andrew.[4] Yet a third account states that having fallen out with the Northumbrian king, Acca went to live in exile in Ireland on a remote coast before returning to Hexham.[5] St. Andrew's Church in Aycliffe is said to have been once dedicated to Acca.[6]

Acca was buried at Hexham near the east wall of the abbey. Two finely carved crosses, fragments of one of which still remain, were erected at the head and foot of his grave.[3] He was revered as a saint immediately after his death. His body was translated at least three times: in the early 11th century, by Alfred of Westow, sacrist of Durham;[3] in 1154, at the restoration of the church, when the relics of all the Hexham saints were put together in a single shrine; and again in 1240. His feast day is 20 October. The translation of his relics is commemorated on 19 February.

The only surviving writing of Acca's is a letter addressed to Bede and printed in his works (see also Raine below).



  • Raine, J., Priory of Hexham (Surtees Society, London 1864), containing the text of Acca's letter to Bede and other relevant material on his life
  • Stanton, Richard, A Menology of England and Wales (London, 1892), 507
  • Simeon of Durham, and Ælred's On the Saints of Hexham, both in the Rolls Series
  • Eddius, Life of Wilfrid (ed Raine, J.,Historians of the Church of York, London 1879–94; ed Levison, W., in Mon. Germ. Hist., Scriptores Rerum Merovingicarum, vol. 6 (1913); or ed B. Colgrave, Cambridge 1927)
  • Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People (many editions)
  • Hunter Blair, P., The World of Bede (1970)
  • Kirby, D. P. (ed), St Wilfrid at Hexham (1974)

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Bishop of Hexham
Succeeded by