Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Adhelm, or Aldhelm, Bishop

wall plaque of Saint Alhelm, Church of Saint Aldhelm, Malmesbury, England; date unknown, artist unknown; photographed by Adrian Pingstone in February 2005; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

He was born among the West-Saxons, and a near relation of king Ina, but had his education under Saint 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 Saint Peter, and added to it two others, the one in honour of the Mother of God, the other of Saint 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. He inserts at length the high commendations which Saint Austin, Saint 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 diocese was divided into two, that of Winchester and that of Sherburn. Saint 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 diocese 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.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Adhelm, or Aldhelm, Bishop”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 22 May 2017. Web. 23 January 2019. <>