Aelred (Ailred), St.
AELRED (AILRED), ST.
Abbot and writer; b. Hexham, Northumberland, 1110; d. Rievaulx, Jan. 12, 1167.
Life. He was of a noble family, the son of Eilaf, the last of the hereditary priests of Hexham in Northumberland on the English-Scottish border. He attended schools at Hexham and Durham, and possibly at the old Scottish capital, Roxburgh. Much of his youth he spent at the court of the half-English King David I of Scotland. Aelred entered the Cistercian Abbey of Rievaulx in York-shire probably in 1134. His monastic life falls into three periods: for nine years he was at Rievaulx as novice, monk, and confidential adviser to Abbot William; for about four years he was abbot of Revesby, a newly established daughter house of Rievaulx; and from the end of 1147 until his death he was abbot of Rievaulx.
Aelred was known to his contemporaries as the "Bernard of the North" because of the warmth of his sentiment, the attractive power of his mind, and his wondrous gift of writing and preaching for monks and clergy. He was one of the most influential persons of his time. His life was marked by tireless activity, even during the chronic illness that plagued his later life. The duties of administering a large and prosperous community and the many visitations to the daughter houses of Rievaulx were a constant responsibility. Moreover, he kept up an extensive correspondence and was much in demand as friend and counselor to abbots, bishops, and kings. His writings reveal Aelred as a person of warmth and simplicity, deeply imbued with the Christian humanism of his day.
His life, the Vita Aelredi, was written by a contemporary monk, Walter Daniel, who lived for 17 years under Aelred's rule and who sought to illustrate Aelred's sanctity. The supposed canonization of Aelred by Celestine III in 1191 is false. In 1476 the general chapter at Cîteaux allowed a more solemn celebration of Aelred's feast in England and gave a formal authorization of the local cultus.
Writings. Only part of the literary heritage of Aelred is extant. His extensive correspondence with popes and kings, his rhythmic prose in honor of St. Cuthbert, his homily for the feast of St. Edward the Confessor have been lost. The Vita Aelredi is the starting point for the authentic list of Aelred's works. This list does not include the Oratio pastoralis and four historical works, although these are well attested by twelfth-century Rievaulx manuscripts. The manuscript tradition of the corpus aelredianum tells an interesting story. Some 180 manuscripts have been listed. The great number of thirteenth-century manuscripts (71) is due partly to the fact that several works of Aelred were ascribed to St. Bernard and St. Augustine. The greatest number of manuscripts were copied at the Benedictine Abbey of Reading, and most are preserved today in England.
The first attempt to edit a series of Aelredian works was made by Richard Gibbons in the 17th century. A complete and critical edition of the Opera Omnia was published in 1971 for the 800th anniversary of Aelred's death.
The writings of Aelred are usually divided into ascetical or devotional works and historical works.
Ascetical Works. Aelred's first work, Speculum caritatis, was written at the instigation of St. Bernard of Clairvaux while Aelred was novice master. In a fluent and fine style, he treated of the excellence and practice of charity. The De Iesu puero duodenni was written at the request of a friend, Ivo of Wardon. Quoting the text of Luke (2.41–52), Aelred gave a literal, an allegorical, and a spiritual or moral exposition. His most famous work, De spiritali amicitia, was based on Cicero's De amicitia but was influenced also by Augustine and Bernard. Written in dialogue form, it has as its theme that truly spiritual friendship never concerns two persons only. It always involves Christ, who is the source from which the friend-ship springs, the framework in which it grows, and the final end at which it aims.
The De institutione inclusarum is a rule for recluses, written at the request of Aelred's sister. According to the author's own words, it contains "a way of life to govern the body, a way of purifying the inward man of vices, and an example of three-fold meditation." The De anima consists solely in a synthesis of Augustinian doctrine and deals with fundamental questions concerning the nature of the soul—a common preoccupation for contemporary Cistercian psychologists. Aelred's ascetical works include also Sermones de tempore et de sanctis, 31 Sermones de oneribus, and a fine pastoral prayer of the abbot for his monks.
Historical Works. The historical writings of Aelred have long been neglected on the assumption that they are not of spiritual interest. However, they reveal much of Aelred's personality and of the spiritual environment of the country in which he lived. In chronological order, they are: Genealogia regum anglorum, Vita s. Niniani, De bello standardii, De sanctimoniali de Watton, Vita s. Eduardi Confessoris, De sanctis Ecclesiae Hagulstadensis.
Doctrine. Aelred's love for Ciceronian literature could no longer predominate after he entered the cloister. The lectio divina led him to a love of the Scriptures. As a monk he was oriented toward the writings of the fathers of the desert, the Rule of St. Benedict, and the whole patristic learning, especially the Confessions of St. Augustine. Faithful to the Cistercian formation, he showed great devotion to the humanity of Christ, wrote with Bernardine accents about charity and spiritual friendship, composed a treatise on the nature of the soul, and wove beautiful prayers into his sermons for the monks. His meditation on the incidents of Our Lord's life and Passion had a remarkable influence on the later development of Christian spirituality. Aelred's insistence on monastic experience as a way that leads to God, his affective spirituality, his Christocentric devotion, especially to the Child Jesus, make him one of the greatest monastic writers of medieval England.
Feast: March 3 (Dioceses of Liverpool, Hexham, and Middlesbrough and in Cistercian houses).
Bibliography: w. daniel, The Life of Ailred of Rievaulx, ed. and tr. f. m. powicke (New York 1950; reprinted Oxford 1978). m. a. calabrese, Bibliotecha sanctorum 1:276–279. b. p. mcguire, Brother and Lover: Aelred of Rievaulx (New York 1994) a. squire, Aelred of Rievaulx: A study. (London 1969; reprinted Kalamazoo, Mich. 1981). c. m. sage, "The MSS of St. Aelred," American Catholic Historical Review 34 (1949) 437–445. a. hoste, Bibliotheca Aelrediana (The Hague 1962), a survey of the MSS, old catalog, eds., and studies of Aelred. Aelredi Rievallensis Opera omnia, a. hoste and c. h. talbot (Turnholti, Belgium 1971) in the series Corpus Christianorum. Continuatio Medievalis. Aelred of Rievaulx, historical works, ed. j. p. freeland and m. dutton (Kalamazoo, MI 1994). r. gibbons, ed., Opera divi Aelredi Rievallensis (Douai 1618; repr. 1655), includes most of the ascetical works. Critical eds. of individual works: De Iesu puero duodenni, ed. a. hoste, tr. j. dubois, as Quand Jésus eut douze ans (Sources Chrétienne 60; 1959); Eng. tr. g. webb and a. walker, On Jesus at Twelve Years Old (London 1956). De institutione inclusarum, ed. c. h. talbot, in AnalOCist 7 (1951) 167–217; Eng. tr. g. webb and a. walker, A Letter to His Sister by Saint Aelred of Rievaulx (London 1957). De anima, ed. c. h. talbot, in Medieval and Renaissance Studies Suppl 1 (1952). De spiritali amicitia, see a. hoste, "The First Draft of Aelred of Rievaulx' De spiritali amicitia," Sacris erudiri 10 (1958) 186–211. For thirteenth-and fourteenth-century summaries of De spiritali amicitia, see a. hoste, "Le Speculum spiritalis amicitiae, compilation du XIII e siècle de deux traités d'Aelred de Rievaulx par Thomas de Frakaham," Studia monastica 3 (1961) 291–323, Eng. tr. h. talbot, Christian Friend-ship by S. Aelred of Rievaulx (London 1942). c. dumont, ed. and tr., Saint Aelred de Rievaulx (Les Écrits des saints; Namur 1961), extracts of the ascetical writings. r. twysden, ed., Historiae anglicanae scriptores X (London 1652), includes most of the historical writings. See also a. squire, "Historical Factors in the Formation of A. of R.," Collectanea ordinis Cistercienism Reformatorium 22 (1960) 262–282. cetedoc, Universitas Catholica Lovaniensis Lovanii Novi, ed., Aelredus Rievallensis, opera ascetica, ed. (Turnhout, Belgium 1989); Aelredus Rievallensis, Sermones I-XLVI (Turnhout 1989). r. l. g. ritchie, The Normans in Scotland (Edinburgh 1954) 246–257. a. hallier, Un Éducateur monastique: Aelred de Rievaulx (Paris 1959), Eng. tr. c. heaney as The Monastic Theology of Aelred of Rievaulx: An experiential theology (Shannon, Ireland 1969). c. dumont, "L'Équilibre humain de la vie cistercienne d'après le Bs. A. de R.," Collectanea ordinis Cistercienism Reformatorium 18 (1956) 177–189; "A. de R.," Théologie de la vie monastique (Paris 1961) 527–538. a. hoste and s. rose de lima, For Crist Luve: Prayers of Saint Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx (The Hague 1965). Literature. g. fÖsges, Das Menschenbild bei Aelred von Rievaulx (Altenberge 1994). j. j. jusserand, English essays from a French Pen (New York 1970). a. maiorino tuozzi, La conoscenza de sé nella scuola cisterciense (Naples 1976). w. m. wright, A retreat with Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal, and Aelred of Rievaulx: Befriending Each Other in God (Cincinnati, Ohio 1996).