Friday, 1 August 2014

St Æthelwold

Today is the feast of Saint Æthelwold, Bishop of Winchester. He was born there of good parentage in the early years of the tenth century. After a youth spent at the court of King Athelstan, Æthelwold placed himself under Elphege the Bald, Bishop of Winchester, who gave him the tonsure and ordained him priest along with Dunstan. At Glastonbury, where he was dean under Saint Dunstan, he was a mirror of perfection. In 955 he became Abbot of Abingdon; and on 29 November 963 was consecrated Bishop of Winchester by Dunstan, with whom he and Oswald of Worcester worked zealously in combating the general corruption occasioned by the Danish inroads. At Winchester, both in the old and in his new minster, he replaced the evil-living seculars with monks and refounded the ancient nunnery. His labours extended to Chertsey, Milton (Dorsetshire), Ely, Peterborough, and Thorney; expelling the unworthy, rebuilding and restoring; to the rebellious "terrible as a lion", to the meek "gentler than a dove." The epithets "father of monks" and "benevolent bishop" summarise Æthelwold's character as reformer and friend of Christ's poor. Though he suffered much from ill-health, his life as scholar, teacher, prelate, and royal counsellor was ever austere. He was buried in Winchester Cathedral, his body being translated later by Elphege, his successor. Abingdon monastery in the twelfth century had relics of Æthelwold. He is said to have written a treatise on the circle and to have translated the "Regularis Concordia." He died on 1 August 984.

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