jeudi 25 mai 2017

Saint ALDHELM (ADELME) de SHERBORNE (de MALMESBURY), évêque et abbé

Vitrail à l'effigie de Saint Aldhelm dans l'abbaye de Malmesbury

Saint Aldhelm

Évêque et abbé ( 709)

Moine bénédictin puis abbé de Malmesbury en Angleterre avant de devenir le premier évêque de Sherborne, tout en gouvernant son monastère, et mourut à Doulting, au cours d’une visite pastorale.

À Malmesbury en Angleterre, l’an 709, la mise au tombeau de saint Aldhelm, évêque et abbé. Célèbre par son érudition, il fut d’abord abbé de Malmesbury, puis devint le premier évêque de Sherborne, tout en gouvernant son monastère, et mourut à Doulting, au cours d’une visite pastorale.

Martyrologe romain

Statue de Saint Aldhelm, Catholic Church of St Aldhelm, Malmesbury.
L’inscription : 'St Aldhelm 639–709, Abbot of Malmesbury and Bishop of Sherborne, 
Latin Poet and Ecclesiastical Writer.'

Aldhelm of Sherborne, OSB B (RM)

(also known as Adhelm, Aldelmus)

Born in Wessex, England, c. 640; died at Doulting in Somerset, May 25, 709. In the 7th century an Irish monk named Maeldubh settled in the lonely forest country that in those days lay in the northeast of Wiltshire. After living for a time as a hermit, he gathered the children of the neighborhood for instruction. In the course of time his hermitage became a school and so continued after his death, acquiring fame as a community of scholars known as Malmesbury.

To this center of learning came a young and clever boy called Aldhelm, a kinsman of Ina (Ine), King of Wessex. He was to be the first English scholar of distinction. After studying under Maeldubh, he learned what he could from Saint Adrian and Saint Theodore at Canterbury, where he probably became a Benedictine monk (though he may have done so earlier at Malmesbury).

He returned to Malmesbury and under Aldhelm the school became a monastery, of which he was appointed abbot about 675. He knew Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, and attracted scholars from other lands. He was also a poet, and was so full of music that it was said that he could play every musical instrument in use. In course of time he established other smaller religious communities in the neighborhood and, thereby, advanced education in all of Wessex.

He was an advisor to Ina and held in high regard by King Alfred, who wrote down this story about him. Aldhelm was distressed because the townspeople were indifferent to the Mass, either by absenting themselves or by gossiping and remaining inattentive when they attended. He therefore stood on the town bridge and acted the part of a minstrel by singing popular ballads and reciting his verses interspersed with hymns, passages from the gospels, a bits of clowning in hopes of winning 'men's ears, and then their souls.' The result was that he soon collected a crowd of hearers and was able to impart simple religious teaching to them; 'whereas if he had proceeded with severity and excommunications, he would have made no impression whatever upon them.'

Later, at the request of Pope Sergius I, he accompanied Coedwalla, the West Saxon king, to Rome. Later still, he took an active part in disputes between the Celtic and the Anglo-Saxon Church. He addressed a famous letter to Gerent, king of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall), explaining the date on which Easter ought to be kept by the Celtic clergy there. At one famous synod (Whitby?) Aldhelm attempted reconciliation with what remained of the old British Church in Cornwall, which was then a kingdom with its own king.

In 705, Aldhelm became the first bishop of Sherbourne, his appointment dating from the time of the division of the old diocese of Wessex into Sherborne and Winchester. His brief episcopate was marked by energy and enterprise. He had travelled a long way from the days when he joined the school in the forest and sang as a minstrel on Malmesbury Bridge. But always he is remembered as the Saxon poet-preacher, who first translated the Psalms into the Anglo-Saxon tongue, and who sang the words of Scripture into the hearts of the common people. In King Alfred's words: 'Aldhelm won men to heed sacred things by taking his stand as a gleeman and singing English songs on a bridge."

His English writings, hymns and songs, with their music, have all perished; of his Latin works, the longest are a poem in praise of holy maidens and a treatise on virginity written for the nuns of Barking in Essex. In his lighter moments he composed Latin verse and metrical riddles. As a scholar, Saint Aldhelm has been described as 'ingenious,' and it has been well said that the Latin language went to his head. He liked to play with words and his writing was so involved and obscure as often to be unintelligible; but his reading was extensive--so extensive that he has been described as the first English librarian.

In his own day Aldhelm had a wide influence in southern England. He was buried at Malmesbury Abbey. The cape in Dorset usually called Saint Alban's Head is properly Saint Aldhelm's Head (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Duckett, Gill).

In art, Saint Aldhelm is portrayed as a bishop in a library. He is venerated at Malmesbury (Roeder).

St. Aldhelm

Abbot of Malmesbury and Bishop of Sherborne, Latin poet and ecclesiastical writer (c. 639-709). Aldhelm, also written Ealdhelm, Ældhelm, Adelelmus, Althelmus, and Adelme, was a kinsman of Ine, King of Wessex, and apparently received his early education at Malmesbury, in Wiltshire, under an Irish Christian teacher named Maildubh. It is curious that Malmesbury, in early documents, is styled both Maildulfsburgh and Ealdhelmsbyrig, so that it is disputed whether the present name is commemorative of Maildubh or Ealdhelm, or, by "contamination," possibly of both (Plummer's "Bede," II, 310). Aldhelm himself attributes his progress in letters to the famous Adrian, a native of Roman Africa, but formerly a monk of Monte Cassino, who came to England in the train of Archbishop Theodore and was made Abbot of St. Augustine's, Canterbury. Seeing, however, that Theodore came to England only in 671, Aldhelm must then have been thirty or forty years of age. The Saxon scholar's turgid style and his partiality for Greek and extravagant terms have been traced with some probability to Adrian's influence (Hahn, "Bonifaz und Lul," p. 14). On returning to settle in Malmesbury our Saint, probably already a monk, seems to have succeeded his former teacher Maildubh, both in the direction of the Malmesbury School, and also as Abbot of the Monastery; but the exact dates given by some of the Saint's biographers cannot be trusted, since they depend upon charters of very doubtful authenticity. As abbot his life was most austere, and it is particularly recorded of him that he was wont to recite the entire Psalter standing up to his neck in ice-cold water. Under his rule the Abbey of Malmesbury prospered greatly, other monasteries were founded from it, and a chapel (ecclesiola), dedicated to St. Lawrence, built by Aldhelm in the village of Bradford-on-Avon, is standing to this day. (A. Freeman, "Academy," 1886, XXX, 154.) During the pontificate of Pope Sergius (687-701), the Saint visited Rome, and is said to have brought back from the Pope a privilege of exemption for his monastery. Unfortunately, however, the document which in the twelfth century passed for the Bull of Pope Sergius is undoubtedly spurious. At the request of a synod, held in Wessex, Aldhelm wrote a letter to the Britons of Devon and Cornwall upon the Paschal question, by which many of them are said to have been brought back to unity. In the year 705 Hedda, Bishop of the West Saxons, died, and, his diocese being divided, the western portion was assigned to Aldhelm, who reluctantly became the first Bishop of Sherborne. His episcopate was short in duration. Some of the stone-work of a church he built at Sherborne still remains. He died at Doulting (Somerset), in 709. His body was conveyed to Malmesbury, a distance of fifty miles, and crosses were erected along the way at each halting place where his remains rested for the night. Many miracles were attributed to the Saint both before and after his death. His feast was on May the 25th, and in 857 King Ethelwulf erected a magnificent silver shrine at Malmesbury in his honour.

"Aldhelm was the first Englishman who cultivated classical learning with any success, and the first of whom any literary remains are preserved" (Stubbs). Both from Ireland and from the Continent men wrote to ask him questions on points of learning. His chief prose work is a treatise, "De laude virginitatis" ("In praise of virginity"), preserved to us in a large number of manuscripts, some as early as the eighth century. This treatise, in imitation of Sedulius, Aldhelm afterwards versified. The metrical version is also still extant, and Ehwald has recently shown that it forms one piece with another poem, "De octo principalibus vitiis" (On the eight deadly sins"). The prose treatise on virginity was dedicated to the Abbess and nuns of Barking, a community which seems to have included more than one of the Saint's own relatives. Besides the tractate on the Paschal controversy already mentioned, several other letters of Aldhelm are preserved. One of these, addressed to Acircius, i.e. Ealdfrith, King of Northumbria, is a work of importance on the laws of prosody. To illustrate the rules laid down, the writer incorporates in his treatise a large collection of metrical Latin riddles. A few shorter extant poems are interesting, like all Aldhelm's writings, for the light which they throw upon religious thought in England at the close of the seventh century. We are struck by the writer's earnest devotion to the Mother of God, by the veneration paid to the saints, and notably to St. Peter, "the key-bearer," by the importance attached to the holy sacrifice of the Mass, and to prayer for the dead, and by the esteem in which he held the monastic profession. Aldhelm's vocabulary is very extravagant, and his style artificial and involved. His latinity might perhaps appear to more advantage if it were critically edited. An authoritative edition of his works is much needed. To this day, on account of the misinterpretation of two lines which really refer to Our Blessed Lady, his poem on virginity is still printed as if it were dedicated to a certain Abbess Maxima. Aldhelm also composed poetry in his native tongue, but of this no specimen survives. The best edition of Aldhelm's works, though very unsatisfactory, is that of Dr. Giles (Oxford, 1844). It has been reprinted in Migne (P.L., LXXXIX, 83 sqq.). Some of his letters have been edited among those of St. Boniface in the "Monumenta Germaniae" (Epist. Aevi Merovingici, I).


ABBOT FARICIUS in an eleventh-century biography [Acta SS., May (VI)]; WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY, Gesta Pontificum, V; WILDMAN, Life of St. Ealdhelm (London, 1905); BROWNE, St. Aldhelm (London, 1903); LINGARD, Anglo-Saxon Church; MONTALEMBERT, The Monks of the West (tr.), V; HUNT in Dict. of Nat. Biog.; STUBBS in Dict. of Christ. Biog.; BIRON in Dict. de théol. cath.; BONHOFF, Aldhelm von Malmesbury (Dresden, 1894); SANDYS, A History of Classical Scholarship (Cambridge, 1903), 430; MANITIUS, Geschichte der christlich-lateinischen Poesie (Stuttgart, 1891), 489-496; Sitzungsberichte Akad. Wien. Phil. Hist. cl. CXII, 536-634; EBERT, Geschichte der Litteratur des M. A. (2d ed., Leipzig, 1889), I, 623-634; TRAUBE, Karolingischen Dichtungen (Berlin, 1888); Sitzungsberichte des Bayer. Akad. phil. philolog. cl. (Munich, 1900), 477; EHWALD, Aldhelm's Gedicht de Virginitate (Gotha, 1904); bibliography in CHEVALIER'S Répertoire, etc., Bio-Bibliogr. (2d ed., Paris, 1905), 45, 46.

Thurston, Herbert. "St. Aldhelm." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 25 May 2017 <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Laura Ouellette.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.



Saint Aldhelm
The Aldhelm Window
Aldhelm was born in Wessex in 639. When he was a young boy, he was sent to Canterbury to be educated under Adrian, Abbot of St Augustine’s, and had soon impressed his teachers with his skill in the study of Latin and Greek literature.
Aldhelm returned to Wessex some years later and joined the community of monks in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.
He embraced the monastic life and, in 680, became the monks’ teacher. His excellent reputation spread far and wide, and scholars from France and Scotland came to learn from him. By this time, Aldhelm is said to have spoken and written fluent Latin and Greek, and was able to read the Old Testament in Hebrew. He wrote poetry, composed music and sang – King Alfred the Great placed him in the first rank of poets in the country and his ballads were popular even as late as the 12th Century. Aldhelm excelled at playing many different instruments, including the harp, fiddle and pipes.
In 683, Aldhelm was appointed Abbot of Malmesbury. Under his leadership, the Abbey continued to be a seat of learning and was given many gifts from kings and nobles. Aldhelm enlarged the monastery at Malmesbury and built the Church of St Peter and St Paul. He founded monasteries in Frome and Bradford-on-Avon, where he also built St Laurence’s Church which still stands today.
During his time as Abbot, Aldhelm noticed that instead of attending to the monks at Mass, the local people preferred to spend their time gossiping and could not be persuaded to listen to the preacher. So one day, he stationed himself on a bridge, like a minstrel, and began to sing his ballads. The beauty of his verse attracted a huge crowd and, when he had caught their attention, he began to preach the Gospel
The historian William of Malmesbury observed that if Aldhelm “had proceeded with severity … he would have made no impression whatever upon them.” But by seeking out people where they were and speaking directly to them, Aldhelm had succeeded in “impressing on their minds a truer feeling of religious devotion.”
In 705, the Bishopric of Wessex was split into two dioceses and Aldhelm was made Bishop of Sherborne. In his time as bishop, he rebuilt the church at Sherborne and helped to establish a nunnery at Wareham. He also built churches at Langton Matravers and the Royal Palace at Corfe.
On 25th May 709, just four years after his consecration, Aldhelm died at Doulting in Somerset. His funeral procession travelled 50 miles from Doulting to Malmesbury and stone crosses were planted at 7-mile intervals, to mark each place where his body rested for the night. Today we celebrate 25th May, the date of Aldhelm’s death, as a feast day to remember the first Bishop of Sherborne – a true evangelist and an inspiring Saint.
St. Aldhelm is an example to us of how to obey the directive of Christ.
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
Matthew 28 verses 19-20.
There are 5 themes in the window which illustrate this:
Five juggling balls
King Alfred was impressed with how Aldhelm went outside the church walls to make Christ known to his people. He tells the story of how when he was an Abbott, Aldhelm left his congregation while they were busy in worship and went out the bridge, in the role of a minstrel. He used various skills to draw a crowd so he could tell them the gospel. Christians today use ‘street theatre’ in order to reach people who will not venture inside. It is not a new idea! The present church here in Upper Edmonton has links with amateur dramatic societies. Laughter and fun are also part of the Christian life and Aldhelm wrote riddles about ordinary things of life too. some of those which he wrote in Latin are still in print. He used his many skills to gather an audience.
Aldhelm the Bishop
At the age of 65 Aldhelm was made the first Bishop of Sherborne in A.D 705. He had a passion to convert his people to Christ. Congregations were formed and churches were built in various places throughout the Anglo Saxon kingdom of wessex. These include places such as Langton Matravers, Frome, Bradford on Avon, sherborne, Wareham, Malmesbury, and the Royal court of Corfe Castle. He was one of the most successful missionary bishops in the South of England for several centuries.
In his hand is a manuscript. Aldhelm went to canterbury to study Latin, Greek and Hebrew. He returned to Malmesbury where he gathered around him people who were themselves keen to learn. Some of his writings in Latin are still in print today. For several centuries after his death he was known as the first and indeed one of the finest anglo Latin scholars and poets. Although he was keen to teach, it did not stop Aldhelm from being able to teach the gospel in his native tongue.
Aldhelm was a gifted musician. He played various instruments of the day not just the harp, and composed his own songs that helped people relate to him as an ordinary person rather than an intellectual. Some four centuries later a biographer of Aldhelm was able to report that some of his songs were still being sung by the Anglo Saxon peasantry. Unfortunately, they were never written down, and also we do not know whether he wrote music for worship. Many Christians down the centuries have heard God’s call to write or sing or play music that is not for worship. Through music Aldhelm touched the lives of the ordinary people.
Malmesbury Abbey
Aldhelm lived most of his life in Malmesbury, and formed the tiny church there into a Christian community. After a visit to Rome, he returned with the Pope’s blessing that he should form his community around the rule of Benedict. He became Abbott in 675 at the age of 35, and remained so up to his death in AD 709. The Benedictines were not only strong on daily prayer and worship, but also simple living and strict morals. There was an abbey on the same site until Henry VIII th’s time. The present ‘Malmesbury Abbey’ is now the Parish Church and is built around the ruins of the old abbey. There is a Chapel there dedicated to St. Aldhelm. The Abbey may have been his home and his base, but he went outside of the walls to evangelise, and chose to baptise the converts in the river rather than inside the Church.

Saint Aldhelm of Sherborne

Also known as
  • Adhelm
  • Aldelmus

Son of Centa, he was a Saxon and related to the King of Wessex. Lived for a while as a hermit near Wiltshire, England. Monk at Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire. Spiritual student of Saint Maeldulph and Saint Adrian of Canterbury. Teacher and spiritual director.

Abbot at Malmesbury c.685. Instituted Benedictine reforms, and the house became a model for those around it. Founded monasteries at Frome and Brandford-on-Avon, and built three churches in Malmesbury, one of which survives today. During one of the church constructions, a roof beam was cut too short; Aldhelm prayed over it, and it lengthened. Around the year 700 Aldhelm installed the first church organ in England.

He was a tireless preacher – legend says that one sermon lasted so long that his staff took root and became a tree again. Spiritual writer known internationally in his day. One of the founders of Anglo-Latin poetry. A musician, he was skilled in the harp, fiddle and pipes, and known as a skilled and popular singer. He travelled to Rome to meet with Pope Saint Sergius I and helped settle disputes on matters of theology and practice between the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon churches. Bishop of Sherborne from 705 until his death.


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.

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]

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

ALDHELM (c. 640-709), bishop of Sherborne, English scholar, was born before the middle of the 7th century. He is said to have been the son of Kenten, who was of the royal house of Wessex, but who was certainly not, as Aldhelm's early biographer Faritius asserts, the brother of King Ine. He received his first education in the school of an Irish scholar and monk, Maildulf, Mældubh or Meldun (d. c. 675), who had settled in the British stronghold of Bladon or Bladow on the site of the town called Mailduberi, Maldubesburg, Meldunesburg, &c., and finally Malmesbury,[1] after him. In 668 Pope Vitalian sent Theodore of Tarsus to be archbishop of Canterbury, and about the same time came the African scholar Hadrian, who became abbot of St Augustine's at Canterbury. Aldhelm was one of his disciples, for he addresses him as the "venerable preceptor of my rude childhood." He must, nevertheless, have been thirty years of age when he began to study with Hadrian. His studies included Roman law, astronomy, astrology, the art of reckoning and the difficulties of the calendar. He learned, according to the doubtful statements of the early lives, both Greek and Hebrew. He certainly introduces many Latinized Greek words into his works. Ill-health compelled him to leave Canterbury, and he returned to Malmesbury, where he was a monk under Maildulf for fourteen years, dating probably from 661, and including the period of his studies with Hadrian. When Maildulf died, Aldhelm was appointed in 675, according to a charter of doubtful authenticity cited by William of Malmesbury, by Leutherius, bishop of Dorchester from 671 to 676, to succeed to the direction of the monastery, of which he became the first abbot. He introduced the Benedictine rule, and secured the right of the election of the abbot to the monks themselves. The community at Malmesbury increased, and Aldhelm was able to found two other monasteries to be centres of learning at Frome and at Bradford on Avon. The little church of St Lawrence at Bradford dates back to his time and may safely be regarded as his. At Malmesbury he built a new church to replace Maildulf's modest building, and obtained considerable grants of land for the monastery. His fame as a scholar rapidly spread into other countries. Artwil, the son of an Irish king, submitted his writings for Aldhelm's approval, and Cellanus, an Irish monk from Peronne, was one of his correspondents. Aldhelm was the first Englishman, so far as we know, to write in Latin verse, and his letter to Acircius (Aldfrith or Eadfrith, king of Northumbria) is a treatise on Latin prosody for the use of his countrymen. In this work he included his most famous productions, 101 riddles in Latin hexameters. Each of them is a complete picture, and one of them runs to 83 lines. That his merits as a scholar were early recognized in his own country is shown by the encomium of Bede (Eccl. Hist. v. 18), who speaks of him as a wonder of erudition. His fame reached Italy, and at the request of Pope Sergius I. (687-701) he paid a visit to Rome, of which, however, there is no notice in his extant writings. On his return, bringing with him privileges for his monastery and a magnificent altar, he received a popular ovation. He was deputed by a synod of the church in Wessex to remonstrate with the Britons of Domnonia (Devon and Cornwall) on their differences from the Roman practice in the shape of the tonsure and the date of Easter. This he did in a long and rather acrimonious letter to their king Geraint (Geruntius), and their ultimate agreement with Rome is referred by William of Malmesbury to his efforts. In 705, or perhaps earlier, Hæddi, bishop of Winchester, died, and the diocese was divided into two parts. Sherborne was the new see, of which Aldhelm reluctantly became the first bishop. He wished to resign the abbey of Malmesbury which he had governed for thirty years, but yielding to the remonstrances of the monks he continued to direct it until his death. He was now an old man, but he showed great activity in his new functions. The cathedral church which he built at Sherborne, though replaced later by a Norman church, is desribed by William of Malmesbury. He was on his rounds in his diocese when he died in the church of Doulting on the 25th of May 709. The body was taken to Malmesbury, and crosses were set up by the pious care of his friend, Bishop Ecgwine of Worcester, at the various halting-places. He was buried in the church of St Michael. His biographers relate miracles due to his sanctity worked during his lifetime and at his shrine.

Aldhelm wrote poetry in Anglo-Saxon also, and set his own compositions to music, but none of his songs, which were still popular at the time of Alfred, have come down to us. Finding his people slow to come to church, he is said to have stood at the end of a bridge singing songs in the vernacular, thus collecting a crowd to listen to exhortations on sacred subjects. Aldhelm wrote in elaborate and grandiloquent Latin, which soon came to be regarded as barbarous. Much admired as he was by his contemporaries, his fame as a scholar therefore soon declined, but his reputation as a pioneer in Latin scholarship in England as a teacher remains.

Aldhelm's works were collected in J. A. Giles's Patres ecc. Angl. (Oxford, 1844), and reprinted by J. P. Migne in his Patrologiae Cursus, vol. 89 (1850). The letter to Geraint, king of Domnonia, was supposed to have been destroyed by the Britons (W. of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontificum, p. 361), but was discovered with others of Aldhelm's in the correspondence of St Boniface, archbishop of Mainz. A long letter to Eahfrid, a scholar just returned from Ireland (first printed in Usserii Veterum Epistt. Hiber. Sylloge, 1632), is of interest as casting light on the relations between English and Irish scholars. Next to the riddles, Aldhelm's best-known work is De Laude Virginitatis sive de Virgintate Sanctorum, a Latin treatise addressed about 705 to the nuns of Barking,[2] in which he commemorates a great number of saints. This was afterwards turned by Aldhelm into Latin verse (printed by Delrio, Mainz, 1601). The chief source of his Epistola ad Acircium sive liber de septenario, et de metris, aenigmatibus ac pedum regulis (ed. A. Mai, Class. Auct. vol. v.) is Priscian. For the riddles included in it, his model was the collection known as Symposii aenigmata. The acrostic introduction gives the sentence, "Aldhelmus cecinit millenis versibus odas," whether read from the initial or final letters of the lines. His Latin poems include one on the dedication of a basilica built by Bugge (or Eadburga), a royal lady of the house of Wessex.

Authorities.—Faritius (d. 1117), an Italian monk of Malmesbury, afterwards abbot of Abingdon, wrote a Vita S. Aldhelmi (MS. Cotton, Faustina, B. 4), printed by Giles and Migne, also in Original Lives of Anglo-Saxons (Caxton Soc., 1854); but the best authority is William of Malmesbury, who in the fifth book, devoted to St Aldhelm, of the Gesta Pontificum proposes to fill up the outline of Fauritius, using the church records, the traditions of Aldhelm's miracles preserved by the monks of Malmesbury, and the lost "Handboc" or commonplace book of King Alfred. His narrative is divided into four parts: the birth and attainments of Aldhelm, the religious houses he had established and endowed, the miracles recorded of him, and the history of the abbey down to the writer's own time (see De Gestis Pontificum, ed. N. E. S. A. Hamilton, 1870, for the Rolls Series, pp. 330-443). The life by John Capgrave in his Legenda Nova (1516) L. Bönhoff, Aldhelm von Malmesbury (Dresden, 1894); T. D. Hardy, Descripitive Catalogue (1862), vol. i. pp. 389-396; T. Wright, Biog. Brit. Lit. (A.-S. Period, 1842); G. F. Browne, bishop of Bristol, St Aldhelm; his Life and Times (1903); and W. B. Wildman, Life of S. Ealdhelm, first Bishop of Sherborne (1905), containing many interesting local details. For some poems attributed to Aldhelm, and printed in Dümmler's edition of the letters of St Boniface and Lul in Monumenta Germaniae Historica (epistt. tom. iii.), see H. Bradley in Eng. Hist. Review, xv. p. 291 (1900), where they are attributed to Aldhelm's disciple Æthilwald. The very varied sources and the chronology of Aldhelm's work are discussed in "Zu Aldhelm und Baeda," by Max Manitius, in Sitzungsberichte der kaiserlichen Akad. der Wissenschaften (Vienna, 1886).

An excellent account of his ecclesiastical importance is given by W. Bright in Chapters on Early English Church History (Oxford, 1878). For his position as a writer of Latin verse consult A. Ebert, Allgemein Geschichte d. Literatur des Mittelalters im Abendlande, vol. i. new edition (1889); M. Manitius, Geschichte der christlich-lateinischen Poesie &c. (Stuttgart, 1891), pp. 487-496; also H. Hahn, Bonifaz und Lul ihre angelsächsischen Korrespondenten, chap. i. (Leipzig, 1883). The two last-named works contain many further bibliographical references.
  1. Jump up For the disputed etymology of Malmesbury, which some connect with Aldhelm's name, see Bishop Browne, St Aldhelm: his Life and Times, p. 73.
  2. Jump up Cuthburga, sister of King Ine of Wessex, and therefore related to Aldhelm, left her husband Aldfrith, king of Northumbria, to enter the nunnery at Barking. She afterwards founded the nunnery of Wimborne, of which she became abbess.

Sant' Aldelmo (Adelmo) Abate e vescovo

Etimologia: Aldelmo = Adelmo, nobile protettore, dall'antico tedesco

Emblema: Bastone pastorale

Martirologio Romano: In Inghilterra, sant’Aldelmo, vescovo, che, celebre per la dottrina e gli scritti, già abate di Malmesbury, fu poi ordinato primo vescovo di Sherborne tra i Sassoni occidentali.

ALDELMO (Adelmo), abate di MALMESBURY, vescovo di SHERBORNE, santo. 

Aldelmo è nome anglosassone: Ealdhelm (= vetus galea, “antico elmo”, in senso di ottima “protezione”), latinizzato in Aldhelmus o Althelmus e Adelelmus. Ma l'esatta grafia ci è data da Aldelmo stesso nella prefazione ai suoi Enigmi con l'acrostico “Aldhelmus”. Di questa etimologia tratta espressamente Guglielmo di Malmesbury all'inizio della vita di Aldelmo; se ne occupa pure, criticamente, Rudolf Ehwald. Lo stesso Guglielmo di Malmesbury considera anche la forma derivata Adelmus (donde il francese Adelme e l'italiano Adelmo), avvertendo che questo modo di scrivere il nome del santo deriva dai distici, che s. Dunstano fece scolpire nella restaurata chiesa del monastero, eliminando la prima "l" per “licenza poetica”, ut versus staret (PL, CLXXIX, col. 1660: vi sono riportati due distici con il nome di Aldelmo). Tuttavia questa forma del nome così abbreviato (Adelmus) ha dato luogo ad una diversa etimologia, cioè, come scrive Carlo Hegger, “a verbis Germanicis adal, quod idem valet ac nobilis, et helm, cuius vis est galea, praesidium, tutamen” . 

Aldelmo proveniva da nobilissima famiglia sassone: si è soliti dire da famiglia “reale”. Suo padre, infatti, di nome Kenten, era stretto parente (non “ fratello ” come si è affermato) del re Ina, come chiarisce Guglielmo di Malmesbury: “Beati Aldhelmi patrem non fuisse regis Inae germanum, sed arctissima necessitudine consanguineum”. Probabilmente quindi Aldelmo, notevolmente più anziano, ed il re Ina (cui è dovuto il primo codice di leggi sassoni) erano cugini. 

Aldelmo nacque nel Wessex (non si conosce con precisione la località) verso il 640, forse nel 639, e morì settantenne, il 25 maggio 709. Ebbe come primo istitutore il monaco irlandese Maildulfo “natione Scotus, eruditione philosophus, professione monacus”, fondatore del monastero che da lui prende il nome di Malmesbury (in Beda: Maildulfi urbs; in Guglielmo di Malmesbury: Meldunum, Meldunense coenobium). Intorno al 670, già religioso, e probabilmente già sacerdote, si recò alla scuola di Canterbury per perfezionarsi negli studi. Qui ebbe maestri l'arcivescovo s. Teodoro di Tarso, greco di origine, e soprattutto l'abate s. Adriano, africano di nascita, che vi erano giunti da poco, e che assai influirono sulla sua formazione spirituale e culturale, tanto che Aldelmo chiama Adriano “venerando maestro della sua rude infanzia”. 

Tornato a Malmesbury, vi esercitò con ardore l'insegnamento. Alla morte di Maildulfo (verso il 675), il vescovo di Winchester, Leuterio, lo volle abate del monastero e gli donò il terreno necessario per lo sviluppo del cenobio. Aldelmo ingrandì la chiesa primitiva consacrata al Salvatore e ai santi Apostoli Pietro e Paolo, e ne edificò altre due, una in onore della Vergine e l'altra in onore di s. Michele Arcangelo. Sotto il pontificato di Sergio I (687-701) intraprese un viaggio a Roma, tornando in patria con l'insigne privilegium di esenzione del suo monastero, posto alla diretta dipendenza della Santa Sede . 

Aldelmo diede impulso agli studi e all'arte e in un trentennio di governo portò il suo monastero a grande splendore. Si prodigò per l'evangelizzazione del paese anche con canti popolari in volgare. Nelle controversie disciplinari con i Brettoni (Celti) fu vindice della causa romana e apostolo di pace. 

Divisa in due la vasta diocesi di Winchester, unica allora per i Sassoni occidentali (Wessex), Aldelmo fu eletto, nel 705, vescovo della nuova diocesi di Sherborne, pur rimanendo, per volontà dei monaci, superiore del monastero. Il suo episcopato fu breve, perché egli morì il 25 maggio 709, durante una visita pastorale, nel villaggio di Dulting (Somersetshire). Fu riportato trionfalmente a Malmesbury ed ivi sepolto nella chiesa di S. Michele, “ubi sibi vir sanctissimus olim sepulturam providerat”. A lungo furono conservate le “lapideae cruces” che furono erette “ad septem milliaria” per segnare le tappe del suo glorioso passaggio.

Autore: Igino Cecchetti