I came across a statue of a man, head down, eyes closed, even though his hands were open in front of him. I also saw a painting of him looking very stern, and then I discovered that his life is celebrated on this very day: the feast of St Aldhelm, from Anglo-Saxon times. Actually a whole piece of coastline is named after him – in Dorset, where there is a chapel in his honour.
I was out and about in Sherborne, Dorset, yesterday,for the first time and went into the Abbey. It is marvellous. It was there that the statue and painting/icon were. Certainly he must have had a serious side to him, being an abbot- of Malmesbury at one time, and then the first bishop of Sherborne. But I discovered some other aspects of him that made me think he had a good sense of humour and he was also great story teller!
Apparently, even after people had left church for the day, he would take up his lyre, hop onto the bridge crossing the river that everyone walked across, strummed some popular tunes but changed the lyrics to proclaim the love of God- to be sure people got the message!
Certainly he was a very learned man, writing on religious topics in Latin, but also writing 101 puzzles and prose in Latin verse- being the first Anglo-Saxon to do so. One of his stories recounts an experience of a worship service in a church during a great and mighty storm – of such ferocity that the roof was blown off and the beams cast to the floor. The people inside escaped in time, but the experience was etched deep in his memory, and immortalised in verse!
Discovering that St Aldhelm’s feast day is today, I decided to go to visit the church on the Dorset coastal path dedicated to him. I took some flowers in celebration, but found the doors closed because of the pandemic. But I could still honour the saint- by putting the little buds in various cracks and crevices!
Happy Saint Aldhelm’s day!