Our holy Father Acca as a young man joined the household of Bosa, bishop of York, and later became a disciple of the great St. Wilfrid, bishop of York and later of Hexham. For thirteen years he accompanied his teacher on his journeys through England and on the continent, and was a witness at his holy repose. And when Wilfrid died, in 709, he became his successor as abbot and bishop of Hexham in Northumbria.
The Venerable Bede called Acca "the dearest and best loved of all bishops on this earth." Bede also praised his theological library and dedicated several of his works to him. On becoming bishop of Hexham Acca completed three of Wilfrid's smaller churches and splendidly adorned his cathedral at Hexham, providing it with ornaments of gold, silver and precious stones, and decorating the altars with purple and silk. Moreover, he invited an excellent singer called Maban who had been taught church harmony at Canterbury to teach himself and the people. He himself was a chanter of great skill.
In 732 Acca either retired or was expelled from his see, and later became bishop of Whithorn in Southern Scotland. He died on October 20, 740, and was buried near the east wall of his cathedral in Hexham. Parts of two stone crosses which were placed at his tomb still survive.
In about 1030, Alfred Westow, a Hexham priest and a sacrist at Durham, translated the relics of St. Acca, following a Divine revelation, to a place of more fitting honor in the church. At that time the saint's vestments were found in all their pristine freshness and strength, and were displayed by the brethren of the church for the veneration of the faithful. Above his chest was found a portable altar with the inscription Almae Trinitati, agiae Sophiae, sanctae Mariae. This also was the object of great veneration. Many miracles were wrought through this saint. Those attempting to infringe the sanctuary of his church were driven off in a wondrous and terrible manner, and those who tried to steal relics were prevented from doing so.
A brother of the church by the name of Aldred related the following story. When he was an adolescent and was living in the house of his brother, a priest, he was once asked by his brother to keep an eye on some relics of St. Acca which he had wrapped in a cloth and laid on the altar of St. Michael in the southern porch of the church. Then it came into the mind of Aldred that a certain church (we may guess that it was Durham) would be greatly enriched by the bones of St. Acca. So, after prostrating himself on the ground and praying the seven penitential psalms, he entered the porch with the intention of taking them away. Suddenly he felt heat as of fire which thrust him back in great trepidation. Thinking that he had approached with insufficient reverence and preparation, he again prostrated himself and poured forth still more ardent prayers to the Lord. But on approaching a second time he felt a still fiercer heat opposing him. Realizing that his intention was not in accordance with the will of God, he withdrew.
Our holy Father Alcmund was bishop of Hexham from 767 to 781, reposed on September 7, 781, and was buried next to St. Acca. In 1032, he appeared by night to a certain very pious man by the name of Dregmo who lived near the church at Hexham. Wearing pontifical vestments and holding a pastoral staff in his hand, he nudged Dregmo with it and said
"Rise, go to Alfred, son of Westow, a priest of the Church of Durham, and tell him to transfer my body from this place to a more honorable one within the church. For it is fitting that those whom the King of kings has vested with a stole of glory and immortality in the heavens should be venerated by those on earth."
Dregmo asked: "Lord, who are you?"
He replied: "I am Alcmund, bishop of the Church of Hexham, who was, by the grace of God, the fourth after blessed Wilfrid to be in charge of this place. My body is next to that of my predecessor, the holy bishop Acca of venerable memory. You also be present at its translation with the priest."
After saying this, he disappeared. The next morning, Dregmo went to the priest Alfred and related everything in order. He joyfully assembled the people, told them what had happened, and fixed a day for the translation. On the appointed day they lifted the bones from the tomb, wrapped them in linen and placed them on a bier; but since the hour for celebrating the Divine Liturgy had passed, they placed the holy relics in the porch of St. Peter at the western end of the church, intending to transfer them the following day with psalms and hymns and the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
But that night, the priest Alfred, who was keeping vigil with his clerics around the holy body, rose when the others were sleeping and took a part of the finger of the saint, intending to give it to the Church of Durham. The next morning a great multitude came to the translation. But when the priest and those with him came to lift the body, it was immovable. Thinking themselves unworthy, they retired, and others came up. But they, too, were unable to lift it. When no one was found who could lift it, the people looked at each other in consternation, while the priest, still ignorant that he was the cause, exhorted them to pray to God to reveal who was to blame for this. That night, St. Alcmund appeared a second time to Dregmo, who had suddenly been overwhelmed with sleep, and with a stern face said to him
"What is this that you have wanted to do? Did you think to bring me back into the church mutilated, when I served God and St. Andrew here in wholeness of body and spirit? Go, therefore, and witness in the presence of all the people that what has unwisely been taken away from my body should be restored, or else you will never be able to remove me from this place in which I now am."
And when he had said this, he showed him his hand with part of the finger missing. The next day, Dregmo stood in the middle of the people and told them all that had been revealed to him in the night, vehemently urging that the person who had presumed to do this should be punished. Then the priest, perceiving that he was at fault, prostrated himself in the midst of the people and revealed to them the motives for which he had committed the crime. Begging for forgiveness, he restored that which he had taken away. Then the clerics who were present came up and without any effort lifted the holy body and transferred it into the church on August 6.
Later, Alfred translated a portion of the relics of Saints Acca and Alcmund, together with portions of the relics of the other Northumbrian saints: the hermits Baldred and Bilfrid, the Martyr-King Oswin, St. Boisil of Melrose, St. Ebba of Coldingham and the Venerable Bede, to his church of Durham.
Holy Fathers Acca and Alcmund, pray to God for us!
By Vladimir Moss. Posted with permission.
(Sources: The Venerable Bede, Ecclesiastical History; Eddius Stephanus, Life of St. Wilfrid; Simeon of Durham Opera Omnia, ed. T. Arnold, Rolls Series, 1882-85, vol. II, pp. 36-37, 51-52; History of the Church of Durham, ch. 42; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: Clarendon, 1978)