Dunstan, St

views updated May 18 2018

Dunstan, St (c.909–88). Dunstan was born into an aristocratic family related to the royal house of Wessex. His early career owed much to family and royal patronage with special support from King Edmund, who appointed him abbot of Glastonbury c.943, from King Edred, to whom he became a close adviser, and from his uncle Ælfheah, bishop of Winchester (934–51). Exiled briefly by King Eadwig to Ghent and Fleury where he came into contact with advanced Cluniac ideas on monastic reform, he returned as Eadwig's half-brother Edgar took control and was quickly made bishop of Worcester (957), of London (959), and finally archbishop of Canterbury (959–88). Both at Glastonbury and as archbishop Dunstan played a dominant part in the affairs of the English church and state at a critical moment. From his Glastonbury base he was largely instrumental in the introduction of reformed Benedictine observance into England and for the training and support of prominent figures within the movement, notably Æthelwold, bishop of Winchester (963–84), and Oswald, bishop of Worcester (961–92), who was also archbishop of York from 972. As archbishop, Dunstan was immensely influential in secular and ecclesiastical affairs during the reign of Edgar (959–75), in a dominant position to ensure the success of the Benedictine reform and to see to the establishment of monk-bishops so that its influence was felt throughout the English church. At a council held at Winchester in 970 or shortly afterwards, a version of the Benedictine rule, the Regularis concordia, was drawn up for English usage, placing prominence on royal support for the monks. Æthelwold was responsible for the writing of the Regularis, but Dunstan was the inspiration behind it. In 973 he established the Ordo for Edgar's coronation at Bath, which remained the basis for English coronation ritual. After Edgar's death Dunstan (possibly because of his age) seemed to fade into the background, but his reputation remained high. Early ‘lives’ record many personal details, his skill at music and metalwork and miracles of healing (including cures for blindness). Popular opinion quickly accorded him sainthood with a commemorative day on 19 May. In medieval art, the tongs with which he was reputed to have tweaked the nose of the devil were taken as his symbol.

Henry Loyn

Dunstan, St

views updated Jun 27 2018

Dunstan, St (c.909–88), Anglo-Saxon prelate. As Archbishop of Canterbury he introduced the strict Benedictine rule into England and succeeded in restoring monastic life. He is traditionally said to have been a metalworker. He is sometimes shown holding the devil by the nose with a pair of tongs, and his feast day is 19 May.

Dunstan, Saint

views updated May 14 2018

Dunstan, Saint (c.909–88) English monk, archbishop of Canterbury (960–88). He negotiated a peace treaty with the Danes that helped to unify England. Dunstan revived English monasticism and acted as advisor to several kings of Wessex, including Edmund and Edred. His feast day is May 19.

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Saint Dunstan

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Saint Dunstan