Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Grimbald, Abbot

Article

[Native of Saint Omer] He was a monk at Saint Bertin’s, and with his abbot entertained King Alfred in that abbey when that prince was going to Rome. This king, afterwards, by the advice of Eldred archbishop of Canterbury, sent messengers to Saint Bertin’s to invite Grimbald over to England, where he arrived, Hugh being twelfth abbot of that monastery, in the year 885. Asserius, a monk of Menevia or Saint David’s, whom king Alfred honoured with his particular esteem, and who was afterwards bishop of Shireburn, was one of these messengers.

The Oxonian writers tell us that Grimbald was appointed first professor of divinity at Oxford, when he is said to have founded that university; and that Asserius, John Erigena, and Saint Neot taught there at the same time. The learned Mr. Hearne says not only that Grimbald built Saint Peter’s church in the East, but also that the eastern vault of his ancient structure is standing to this day, of which he gives a plan. Upon the death of Eldred archbishop of Canterbury, King Alfred pressed Grimbald to accept that dignity; but was not able to extort his consent, and was obliged to allow him to retire to the church of Winchester. King Alfred’s son and successor Edward, in compliance with his father’s will, built the new Minstre close to the old, in which he placed secular canons, says Tanner, and appointed Saint Grimbald abbot over them; this title being then given to a superior of secular or regular priests. About sixty years after, Bishop Ethelwolph brought in monks in place of those secular canons. King Henry I removed this monastery of New Minstre out of the walls of the city to the place called Hide, which still continued sometimes to be called Saint Grimbald’s monastery. The body of the great King Alfred was removed by his son from the Old Minstre, and that of his queen, Alswithe, from the nunnery of Nunnaminstre, and deposited together in the New Minstre, afterwards in Hide Monastery. Nunnaminstre was founded by King Alfred, or rather by his queen, Alswithe. Saint Edburge, a daughter of King Edward, was a nun, and, according to Leland, abbess there. Saint Grimbald in his last sickness, though extremely feeble, gathered strength when the sacred viaticum was brought, rose out of bed, and received it prostrate on the ground. After this he desired to be left alone for three days, which he spent in close union of his heart with God. On the fourth day the community was called into his chamber, and amidst their prayers the saint calmly breathed forth his happy soul on the 8th of July, in the year 903, of his age eighty-three. His body was reposed in this church, and honoured amongst its most precious relics. It was taken up by Saint Elphegus, and exposed in a silver shrine.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Grimbald, Abbot”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 12 July 2013. Web. 21 December 2014. <>