Golden Legend – Saint Dunstan

[Saint Dunstan of Canterbury]Article

Here followeth the Life of Saint Dunstan.

Saint Dunstan was born in England, and our Lord showed miracles for him ere he was born. It was so that on a Candlemas day, as all the people were in the church with tapers in their hands, suddenly all the lights in the church were quenched at once, save only the taper which Saint Dunstan’s mother bare, for that burned still fair. Whereof all the people marvelled greatly; howbeit her taper was out, but by the power of our Lord it lighted again by itself, and burned full bright, so that all the others came and lighted their tapers at the taper of Saint Dunstan’s mother. Wherefore all the people gave laud and thankings unto our Lord God for this great miracle. And then there was a holy man that said that the child that she then bare should give light to all England by his holy living.

This holy child Dunstan was born in the year of our Lord nine hundred and twenty-five, that time reigning in this land king Athelstan. And Saint Dunstan’s father hight Herston, and his mother hight Quendred, and they set their son Dunstan to school in the abbey of Glastonbury, whereafter he was abbot for his holy living. And within a short time after he went to his uncle Ethelwold, that then was bishop of Canterbury, to whom he was welcome and was glad of his conversation of holy living. And then he brought him to King Athelstan, the which made full much of him also for his good living, and then he was made abbot of Glastonbury by consent of the king and his brother Edmond, and in that place ruled full well and religiously the monks his brethren, and drew them to holy living by good ensample giving. Saint Dunstan and Saint Ethelwold were both made priests in one day, and he was holy in contemplation. And whenso was that Saint Dunstan was weary of prayer, then used he to work in goldsmith’s work with his own hands for to eschew idleness, and he gave alway alms to poor people for the love of God.

And on a time as he sat at his work his heart was on Jesu Christ, his mouth occupied with holy prayers, and his hands busy on his work. But the devil, which ever had great envy at him, came to him in an eventide in the likeness of a woman, as he was busy to make a chalice, and with smiling said that she had great things to tell him, and then he bade her say what she would, and then she began to tell him many nice trifles, and no manner virtue therein, and then he supposed that she was a wicked spirit, and anon caught her by the nose with a pair of tongs of iron, burning hot, and then the devil began to roar and cry, and fast drew away, but Saint Dunstan held fast till it was far within the night, and then let her go, and the fiend departed with a horrible noise and cry, and said, that all the people might hear: Alas! what shame hath this carle done to me, how may I best quit him again? But never after the devil had lust to tempt him in that craft. And in short time after died king Athelstan, and Edmond his brother reigned king after him, to whom Saint Dunstan was chief of counsel, for he gave to him right good counsel to his life’s end; and then died Edmond the king, and after him reigned his son Edwin, and soon after Saint Dunstan and he fell at strife for his sinful living. For Saint Dunstan rebuked the king sharply therefor, but there was none amendment, but always worse and worse. Wherefore Saint Dunstan was right sorry, and did all that pain he might to bring the king to amendment, but it would not be. But the king, within a while after, exiled Saint Dunstan out of this land, and then he sailed over the sea and came to the abbey of Saint Amand in France, and there he dwelled long time in full holy life till king Edwin was dead. And after him reigned Edgar king, a full holy man. And then he heard of the holiness of Saint Dunstan, and sent for him to be of his council, and received him with great reverence, and made him again abbot of Glastonbury. And soon after the bishop of Worcester died, and then Saint Dunstan was made bishop there by the will of king Edgar. And within a little while after the see of London was void, to which king Edgar promoted Saint Dunstan also, and so he held both bishoprics in his hand, that is to wit both the bishopric of Worcester and the bishopric of London. And after this died the archbishop of Canterbury, and then king Edgar made Saint Dunstan archbishop of Canterbury, which he guided well and holily to the pleasure of God, so that in that time of king Edgar, and Dunstan archbishop, was joy and mirth through the realm of England, and every man praised greatly Saint Dunstan for his holy life, good rule, and guiding. And in divers places, whereas he visited and saw curates that were not good, ne propice for the weal of the souls that they had cure of, he would discharge them and put them out of their benefices, and set in such as would entend and were good men, as ye shall find more plainly of this matter in the life of Saint Oswald.

And on a time as he sat at a prince’s table, he looked up and saw his father and mother above in heaven, and then he thanked our Lord God of his great mercy and goodness that it pleased him to show him that sight. And another time as he lay in his bed he saw the brightness of heaven, and heard angels singing Kyrie eleison after the note of Kyrie rex splendens, which was to him a full great comfort. And another time he was in his meditations, he had hanging on the wall in his chamber an harp, on which otherwhile he would harp anthems of our Lady, and of other saints, and holy hymns, and it was so that the harp sounded full melodiously without touching of any hand that he could see, this anthem was, Gaudent in celis animæ sanctorum, wherein this holy saint Dunstan had great joy. He had a special grace of our Lord that such heavenly joys and things were showed to him in this wretched world for his great comfort. And after this he became all sick and feeble, and upon holy Thursday he sent for all his brethren and asked of them forgiveness, and also forgave them all trespasses and assoiled them of all their sins, and the third day after he passed out of this world to God, full of virtues, the year of our Lord nine hundred and eighty-eight. And hls soul was borne up to heaven with merry song of angels, all the people hearing that were at his death. And his body lieth at Canterbury in a worshipful shrine, whereas our Lord showeth for his servant Saint Dunstan many fair and great miracles, wherefore our Lord be praised, world without end. Amen.