Saint of the Day – 1 August – Saint Ethelwold of Winchester (c 912-984) Bishop of Winchester, Monk, Abbot, Reformer, Founder and restorer of many Monasteries and Convents. Born in c 912 at Winchester, England and died on 1 August 984 of natural causes. Also known as – Adeluoldus, Aethelwald, Aethelwold, Etelvoldo, Etelwold, Ethelwald, “Father of Monks.”
Ethelwold was nobly born and a native of Winchester. Being moved in his youth with an ardent desire totally to devote himself to the divine service, he for some time made it his most earnest request to the Father of lights, that he might find an experienced guide in the paths of salvation. He met with this director in the great St Dunstan, then Abbot of Glastonbury, to whom he addressed himself and received, from his hands, the monastic habit. Knowing that heavenly wisdom is an inestimable treasure, to purchase which we must sell all things and exert our whole strength, he bid adieu to all other thoughts and pursuits and never ceased to sigh, to pray, to weep and to labour, with all the ardour of his soul. At the same time, his zeal for knowledge made him embrace every branch of the sacred sciences that these studies were to become his essential duty. St Dunstan, after some time, made him Dean of his Monks.
In 947, King Edred rebuilt and richly endowed the Abbey of Abingdon in Berkshire, which had been founded by King Cissa, in 675. Ethelwold was appointed Abbot of this great Monastery, where he rendered a perfect model of regular discipline and which became a nursery of other like establishments. He procured from Corbie, a master of church music and sent Osgar to Fleury, a Monastery which at that time, surpassed all others in the reputation of strict observance of the most perfect monastic discipline.
The fury of the Danes had made such havoc of religious houses, that no Monks were then left in all England except in the two Monasteries of Glastonbury and Abingdon, as the historian of this latter place testifies and the education of youth and every other support of learning and virtue, was almost banished by the ravages of those barbarians. These deplorable circumstances awaked the zeal of the virtuous, especially of St Dunstan, St Ethelwold and St. Oswald. These three also set themselves, with great industry, to restore learning.
Ethelwold was Consecrated Bishop of Winchester by St Dunstan. The disorders and ignorance which reigned among some of the clergy of England occasioned by the Danish devastations, produced a scandalous violation of some of the canons. Ethelwold found these evils obstinate and past recovery among the disorderly secular Canons of the Cathedral of Winchester. He expelled them, allotting to each of them a part of their prebends for their annual subsistence and placing Monks from Abingdon in their place with whom he kept choir as their Bishop and Abbot.† Three of the former Canons took the monastic habit, and continued to serve God in that Church. The year following, St Ethelwold expelled the seculars out of the new monastery of Winchester, and placed there Monks with an Abbot.
He repaired the nunnery dedicated to the Virgin Mary and bought of the King the lands and ruins of the great nunnery of St Audry in the isle of Ely, which had been burnt by the Danes a hundred years before and he erected, on the same spot, a sumptuous Abbey of Monks, which King Edgar exceedingly enriched, as is related by Thomas of Ely. He likewise purchased the ruins of Thorney in Cambridgeshire, which he restored in like manner about the year 970. He assisted and directed Adulph to buy the ruins of Peterborough Abbey and rebuilt the same in a most sumptuous manner.
He rested from his labours on the 1st of August, 984 and was buried in the Cathedral of Winchester, on the south side of the High Altar. Authentic proofs of miracles wrought through his intercession having been made, his body was taken up and solemnly deposited under the Altar by St Elphege, his immediate successor, afterward Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr.