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

May 25

St. Adhelm, or Aldhelm, Bishop

HE 1 was born among the West-Saxons, and a near relation of king Ina, but had his education under St. Adrian at Canterbury. Maidulf, a pious Irish monk, founded a small poor monastery, called from him Maidulfsbury, corruptly Malmesbury. In this place Aldhelm took the monastic habit, and Maidulf seeing his great virtue and capacity, resigned to him the abbacy in 675. The saint exceedingly raised its reputation and increased its building and revenues. The church he dedicated in honour of St. Peter, and added to it two others, the one in honour of the Mother of God, the other of St. Michael. This abbey was rendered by him the most glorious pile of building at that time in the whole island, as Malmesbury testifies, who fills almost the whole second part of the life of this saint with extracts or copies of the donations, charters, and privileges of many kings and princes granted to this house, with an ample indult of Pope Sergius, which the saint made a journey to Rome to obtain. He was an enemy to gluttony, avarice, vain-glory, and all idle amusements, and watched assiduously in divine reading and holy prayer. He was the first among our English ancestors who cultivated the Latin and English or Saxon poesy, as he says of himself. His principal work is a treatise On the praises of Virginity. 2 He inserts at length the high commendations which St. Austin, St. Jerom, and other fathers bestow on that state, and gives abridged examples of many holy virgins. Among other mortifications it was the custom of this saint to recite the psalter in the night, plunged up to the shoulders in water in a neighbouring pond. When Hedda, bishop of the West-Saxons, or of Winchester, died, that diocess was divided into two, that of Winchester and that of Sherburn. St. Aldhelm who had been abbot thirty years, was taken out of his cell by force, and consecrated the first bishop of Sherburn, which see was afterwards removed to Salisbury. His behaviour in this laborious charge was that of a true successor of the apostles. He died in the visitation of his diocess at Dullinge in Somersetshire, on the 25th of May, in the year 709, the fifth of his episcopal dignity. William of Malmesbury relates several miracles wrought by him, both while he was living and after his death. His psalter, vestment, and several other memorials were kept in his monastery till the dissolution. This abbey, the glory of Wiltshire, then fell, and in it was defaced the sepulchral monument of our great king Athelstan. See William of Malmesbury, in Wharton’s Anglia Sacra, t. 2, p. 1, and L. de Pontif. published by Gale. This latter work contains the history of this abbey. See also Mabillon, Sæc. 3, Ben. part. 1, et Append, in Sæc. 4, part. 1, and Papebroke ad 25 Maij.  1
Note 1. Aldhelm, signifies Old helmet. [back]
Note 2. Henry Wharton has given us a far more correct edition than any former, at London, in 1663, together with certain treatises of St. Bede, and the Dialogue of Egbert, archbishop of York. On his Saxon pious verses in which he excelled to a miracle, as Ealfrid testifies, and his other works, see Cave and Fabricius, Bibl. Med. Latinit. l. 1, p. 142; Tanner, de Script. Britan, &c. The first book which St. Aldhelm wrote was a confutation of the erroneous computation of the North Britons in the celebration of Easter, De Erroribus Britannorum, sive De Circulo Paschali, which Malmesbury says was lost in his time; whence Fabricius tells us it is not now extant. Yet Mabillon and others doubt not but it is the forty-fourth epistle among those of St. Boniface, which treats on this subject, and is addressed to Geruntius, king of Damnonia among the West-Saxons; for the author styles himself Althelm, abbot. [back]