Miniature Lives of the Saints – Saint 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

Saint Aldhelm was born about the year 635, of the family of the West Saxon kings. In his boyhood he was sent for instruction to Abbot Adrian of Canterbury. He received the monastic habit from Maidulf, a holy hermit, who had established a monastery in a place since called Malmesbury, in Wiltshire, of which Aldhelm became the first abbot. During the thirty years of his rule the abbey increased wonderfully in numbers, in learning, and in sanctity, and the holy abbot himself acquired a wide-spread reputation for his knowledge of languages, his writings, his purity of life, and his stern practices of asceticism. Like so many English Saints, he made a pilgrimage to Rome.

Then, to rekindle his charity and quicken his faith, he founded the church and monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Frome, another at Bradford, and also the abbey of Barking, near London, of which his sister was first abbess. At seventy years of age he was made bishop of the new see of Sherborne, which was afterwards translated to Salisbury. By his writings, exhortations, and unwearied exertions, he overcame the obstinacy of the Welsh bishops, and induced them to coniform to the Roman practice of celebrating Easter. He died, after a five years’ episcopate, in the year 709, and was buried at Malmesbury, where his shrine became famous for many miracles.

The greatest intellectual gifts, and their use and cultivation, need be no obstacle to perfection. On the contrary, as the gifts of God, they should be consecrated to His service, and so will not only promote our own sanctification, but also that of others. Saint Aldhelm was perhaps the most learned and accomplished man of his time; yet he was a Saint, and the father of many holy men and women.

“Read frequently; pray earnestly. If you labour to acquire secular learning, do so with the intention of becoming better able to understand and explain the law of God.” — Saint Aldhelm to his friend Ethelwald

The people of Malmesbury were addicted to certain sinful amusements, of which singing and music were the principal charm. S. Aldhelm used to take his seat, in the dress of a minstrel, on a bridge by which they had to pass, and there sing certain pleasing songs of his own composition, which so attracted the people that they stopped in crowds to listen; by degrees he skilfully introduced pious subjects, and finally induced them to follow him to the church.

All things are yours ; but you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. — 1st Corinthians 3:22,23

MLA Citation

  • Henry Sebastian Bowden. “Saint Aldhelm, Bishop”. Miniature Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year, 1877. CatholicSaints.Info. 27 February 2015. Web. 17 February 2019. <>