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Born in Winchester, England, c. 908-912; died at Beddington, 984; feast at Abingdon is August 2; feast of his translation is September 10; Ely used to keep a "commemoratio" on October 8 in his honour, while Deeping and Thorney Abbeys observed an "exceptio" on October 23.

Together with Saint Dunstan (f.d. May 19) and Saint Oswald of York (f.d. February 28), Aehelwold was a leader in the revival of English monasticism in the 10th century following its near eradication by the Danes during their raids. He served at the court of King Athelstan (924-39), but left to seek priestly ordination at the hands of Saint Alphege the Bald (f.d. April 19) on the same day as his friend Saint Dunstan. When Dunstan became abbot of Glastonbury in 943 and restore Benedictine observance there, the priest Aethelwold joined the community and became one of its deans and prior.

Not entirely satisfied with the reformation at Glastonbury, he asked to be allowed to go to France to study the reforms initiated at Cluny. Instead, in 955, King Edred made him abbot of the derelict Abingdon Abbey in Berkshire and entrusted to Aethelwold its restoration. He added to the community monks from Glastonbury and priests from elsewhere, and built a new church that incorporated elements of the old. He sent his disciple Osgar to study at Fleury in his place.

When Dunstan was exiled by King Edwy about 956, Aethelwold became the most important figure in the monastic reformation. He also came near secular power in his role as tutor to the future king, Saint Edgar the Peaceful (f.d. July 8).

In 963, he was consecrated bishop of Winchester in Wessex. The following year King Edgar and Aethelwold replaced secular canons with Benedictines from Abingdon. In this way he founded the first monastic cathedral, a specifically English institution that lasted until the Reformation. The next year, Aethelwold replaced the priests with monks at Newminster. From this point the monastic reform became closely associated with the king, whose palace was very near the cathedral. He also founded or restored many abbeys, including those of Newminster and Nunnaminster in Winchester in 965, Milton Abbas (Dorset) in 964, Chertsey, Peterborough (966), Thorney (972), and Ely (970).

Aethelwold sometimes spent the entirety of Lent in seclusion at Thorney Abbey, where he built a church with an apse at both ends. His charter survives for the endowment of Peterborough with land, serfs, cattle, church plate, and 20 manuscripts.

This austere, able, and dynamic priest was given the nickname, The Father of Monks. The scribe of his "Benedictional" called him a "Boanerges" (son of thunder). When he was prior of Glastonbury, he would urge his brothers to greater effort in their monastic observance; he never slept after Matins (about 3:00 a.m.) and would eat meat only once in three months--and then only at Dunstan's express command.

He was also gifted as an artist, yet was very practical. At Glastonbury he had been cook; at Abingdon he laboured as a builder until he broke his ribs in a fall from a scaffold; at Winchester he set the monks to working with the masons in the cathedral and built the most powerful organ of its time in England. This pipe organ was played by two monks. It had 400 pipes and 36 bellows. The bells and crown of metal for candles in Abingdon's sanctuary are also attributed to his craftsmanship.

More importantly, Aethelwold introduced the Winchester style of manuscript illumination into his monasteries. The style soon surpassed the products of many scriptoria of the Continent. He is also responsible for the establishment at Winchester of the most important school of vernacular writing of the period, of which Aelfric is the most famous example. Its linguistically significant, accurate translations were designed to meet the needs of bishops and clergy who were not themselves monks. Aethelwold's Winchester is also distinguished for its production of the first English polyphonic music, recorded in the "Winchester Troper." His rebuilt cathedral at Winchester was the setting for a wonderfully rich and varied liturgy.

The saint also looked after material well-being the laity of his flock, as well as the monks. He built an aqueduct for the town.

Aethelwold's episcopacy was marked by three important events. First, the congress of about 970, during which the "Regularis Concordia," the characteristic statement about the observance of reformed monasticism, was promulgated as the norm of the 30 reformed abbeys in southern England. Based on the practices of Ghent, Fleury, and Glastonbury, it was probably compiled by Aethelwold himself, who was also responsible for an important vernacular account of the aims of the reformation and an Old English version of the Rule of Saint Benedict translated for the benefit of nun who had no Latin.

The second event was the translation of the relics of Saint Swithun of Winchester (f.d. July 15) in 971. The final outstanding event of Aethelwold's tenure was the consecration of Winchester Cathedral in 980. Each occasion was marked by a large concourse of clergy and laity and was a sign of the success of the monastic reform movement pioneered by Dunstan and Ethelwold. Their monasteries provided about three-quarters of the bishops of England until the Norman Conquest in 1066, as well as many of the missionaries sent to Scandinavia. Their abbeys were the centres of Old English art and literature for many years to come.

Aethelwold had tireless energy to implement reforms regardless of the opposition. He was merciless to the slack, full of sympathy for the good-willed and the unfortunate. He is also described by contemporaries as an outstanding counsellor of the king and as the benevolent bishop. These characteristics need to be recalled as well as his ability and intransigence, for any final assessment of his personality. In all events, he work had a lasting effect (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer).

Service to Our Father among the Saints Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester

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