Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Venerable Helm

It occurred to me today that, since I am reading Craig Williamson's translation of the entire Old English poetic corpus, it would fit very nicely to make a special note of Anglo-Saxon saints whose feasts occur during the fortnight. (Particularly since the greatest Anglo-Saxon saint's feast is tomorrow.) So we start with St. Aldhelm (d. 709), whose feast is today or tomorrow. It makes sense to do him today since he gets doubly trumped tomorrow.

When Pope Vitalian sent St. Theodore of Tarsus to become Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Theodore brought with him St. Hadrian, often known today as St. Adrian of Canterbury, a scholar of rather considerable talents. St. Aldhelm was one of St. Hadrian's students until he became sick and had to return to his original home in Malmesbury. There he joined Malmesbury Abbey, where he seems eventually to have become abbot, and from which he would eventually found two more abbeys in Somerset and Wiltshire. He is the first Anglo-Saxon monk we know to have written in Latin verse, at which he became an expert. He also is said to have written many Anglo-Saxon poems, but unfortunately only some of his Latin works have survived. He ended his days as bishop of Sherborne, and was venerated as a saint from shortly after his death. Because of his extensive ingenuity in various riddles and riddle-games, he is sometimes considered the patron saint of cruciverbalists.

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