Aldhelm of Sherborne / Malmesbury ( Ealdhelm, Ældhelm, Adelelmus, Althelmus, Adelme; * around 639, † May 25 709 or 710 in Doulting at Malmesbury ) was from 675/680 bis 709/710 Abbot of Malmesbury and 705-709 / 710 the first bishop of Sherborne. He was the first Anglo-Saxon scholars, were obtained from the extensive Latin texts. He is considered a saint.

  • 3.1 prose
  • 3.2 seal
  • 3.3 lost works
  • 5.1 works
  • 5.2 secondary literature


Background and education

Aldhelm was born in 640 in Wessex in England, perhaps in chunks Borough. He came from the nobility, possibly from Anglo-Saxon royal family of Wessex, with whom he had a close relationship. It is disputed whether his father called Centa is identical with King Centwine.

Aldhelm 's early years have been handed down only unsafe. He is said to have lived for some time as a hermit in Wiltshire. To 660 he became a monk at Malmesbury Abbey. He was of the Irish Maildubh ( Maeldulph ) educated. Malmesbury is referred to in old documents as Maildulfsburgh and Ealdhelmsbyrig, so it remains unclear whether the present name dates back to Maildubh or Aldhelm.

From 670 he studied in the Benedictine school of Canterbury under the care of Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus and Abbot Hadrian and acquired high knowledge in many fields of knowledge. The ordination he received around 674


According to William of Malmesbury Canterbury Aldhelm left in the year 675 to take up the post of abbot at Malmesbury Abbey. The oldest document dates back to 680 as abbot Aldhelm, which suggests that he pursued his studies in Canterbury up to that time. A 10 -year-old training could better explain his high level of education. As abbot Aldhelm multiplied the possession of the monastery and let the churches SS Peter and Paul and St. Mary's build. About this time he wrote a letter (Ep. IV) to King Geraint of Dumnonia, in which he auffordete him to switch from the iroschottischen to the Roman Catholic church order. In the Paschal dispute he finally sat in Devon and Cornwall by the Roman date. To 685 he led an in Malmesbury, the Rule of St. Benedict. He founded the monasteries daughter Frome ( Somerset ) and Bradford-on -Avon.

In the year 688 exchanged Aldhelm and the subregulus ( Under King ) Baldred (fl. 681-693 ) lands north of the River Avon. Baldred handed Stercanlei ( Startley Farm in Great Somerford, Wiltshire ) and areas with Cnebbanburg against an area with Braydon, Wilts. At the invitation of Pope Sergius I ( 687-701 ), he traveled 690/694 to Rome and brought from there a papal letter of protection for its monastery as to exemption from episcopal jurisdiction and free Abtswahl with. However, the received document dates from the 12th century and is a fake.

Around the year 700 Aldhelm caused the erection of the first church organ in England. According to legend, he was a tireless speaker so that during a sermon his staff took root and sprouting leaves. In 705 he took part in the Synod of Brentford.

Abbot and bishop

As Hedda, Bishop of Wessex, died around the year 705/706 has been divided his diocese. Daniel was Bishop of Winchester, Aldhelm, Bishop of the newly established Diocese of Sherborne, but kept his abbatial office at. His diocese included parts of Wiltshire and Somerset and Devonshire and Dorset. The Church in Sherborne (not included ), the St Martin 's Church in Wareham and St Laurence in Bradford- on-Avon probably originated during Aldhelm episcopate. Although Bede reported that Aldhelm his diocese " eager " board, but no further details are known.

Aldhelm died on 25 May 709/710 in Doulting and was buried in St. Michael's Church in Malmesbury Abbey. The successor as bishop went to Forth Here.


Numerous miracles, even in his own lifetime, were attributed to him. Æthelwulf King of Wessex built 857 in Malmesbury a silver shrine for Aldhelm bones. 1078 the relics were moved one more time. In 1080 he was canonized. From the 10th century Aldhelm is revered in Malmesbury. William of Malmesbury ( † around 1143 ) and Faricius of Abingdon († 1117 ) authored vitae on Aldhelm life. Also Jacobus de Voragine around 1270 Aldhelm dedicated a chapter in his Golden Legend, a popular medieval collection of saints legends.

The Catholic and Anglican Church celebrates Aldhelm Memorial Day on May 25. In London and the transfer of the relics on May 5, is thought. Iconographically Aldhelm is represented as a bishop in a library playing harp as a monk and with sprouting leaves on Esch crosier. He is considered the patron saint of Malmesbury, Sherborne, St Aldhelm 's Chapel, St Alban 's Head, musician and composer. Even today, many churches of St. Aldhelm are consecrated.


Aldhelm is the oldest Anglo-Saxon- Latin poet of importance. He made Malmesbury next to Canterbury a center of classical education and ecclesiastical scholarship. Much of his Latin prose has survived, but nothing is left of his old English works. His Latin writings demonstrate a comprehensive classical education, but are written in an inflated style with inserted Greek phrases.


His preference to form a juxtaposition of synonymous phrases extraordinarily long sentences, the use of archaic terms and Gräzismen continued to influence on Boniface, Æthelwald ( Bishop of Winchester 963-984 ) and Byrhtferth († 1020 ).

  • De laude virginitatis ( praise of virginity ) is a treatise devoted to the abbess of Barking Abbey Hildelith of examples of male and female chastity.
  • De metris et enigmatibus ac pedum regulis also Epistula ad Acircium ( Letters to Aldfrith ): Textbook of Roman metric includes a section on the symbolism of the number seven, and 100 riddles in hexameters of great cultural historical value.
  • Epistolae (Letters ) to the bishops of Winchester Leuthhere and Hadrian of Canterbury, King Geraint of Dumnonia, Heahfrith, Cellanus, Pope Sergius I, and his students Wihtfrith and Æthelwald.


Aldhelm diction was picked up by numerous Anglo-Saxon poets, and also influenced Boniface, the Venerable Bede, Alcuin, Wulfstan Cantor (fl. 996 ) and his disciple Æthelwald.

  • Carmen de virginitate ( praise of virginity ) follows very closely the work of prose and praises the virgin chastity of men and women after the example of Mary in about 3000 hexameters. De octo principalibus vitiis ( The Eight Deadly Sins ): describes the struggle of virtue against the sins

Lost works

According to William of Malmesbury Aldhelm sang her own songs in Old English to the harp, at the time of King Alfred, that is about 200 years later, were still popular.


  • David Preest ( translator's ): William of Malmesbury: The Deeds of the Bishops of England. Gesta Pontificum Anglorum, Boydell, 2002, ISBN 0851158846
  • Venerable Bede Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, online in Medieval Source Book (English)
  • Symeon of Durham, Historia regum Anglorum et Dacorum
  • Anonymous: Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Online at Project Gutenberg (English)
  • Æthelweard: Chronica