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E06659: Aldhelm's verse On Virginity lists a range of saints as exemplary virgins, with some variations to the list found in the earlier prose version of the same treatise. Written in Latin in southern Britain, for the nuns at the monastery at Barking (south-east Britain), c. 675/710. Overview entry

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posted on 2018-09-29, 00:00 authored by bsavill
Aldhelm's verse On Virginity lists the following saints as exemplary virgins:

*Elijah (Old Testament prophet, S00217) - lines 248-82.
*Elisha (Old Testament prophet, S00239) - lines 283-97.
*Jeremiah (Old Testament prophet, S01421) - lines 298-322.
*Daniel (Old Testament prophet, S00727) - lines 323-66.
*Three Hebrew youths of the Old Testament Book of Daniel (S01198) - lines 367-90.
*John the Baptist (S00020) - lines 395-459.
*John (the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042) - lines 460-78.
*Paul (the Apostle, S00008) - lines 479-502.
*Luke (the Evangelist, S00442) - lines 503-23.
*Clement (bishop of Rome, martyr of the Crimea, S00111) - lines 524-38.
*Silvester (bishop of Rome, ob. 336, S00397) - lines 539-650.
*Ambrose (bishop of Milan, ob. 397, S00490) - lines 651-676.
*Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) - lines 677-709.
*Gregory (bishop of Nazianzos, ob. 390, S00837) - lines 710-29.
*Basil (bishop of Caesarea, ob. 379, S00837) - lines 730-750.
*Anthony ('the Great', monk of Egypt, ob. 356, S00098) - lines 751-773.
*Paul (the first anchorite, S00089) - lines 774-96.
*Hilarion (anchorite in Palestine and Cyprus, ob. 371, S00099) - lines 797-826.
*John/Iohannes (of Lycopolis, monk of Egypt, ob. 395, S00102) - lines 827-41.
*Benedict (monk of Nursia, ob. 547, S01727) - lines 842-80.
*Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313) - lines 881-94.
*Narkissos (bishop of Jerusalem, S00148) - lines 895-970.
*Athanasius (bishop of Alexandria, ob. 373, S00294) - lines 971-1033.
*Babylas (bishop and martyr of Antioch, S00061) - lines 1034-70.
*Cosmas/Kosmas and Damianos (physician martyrs of Syria, S00385) - lines 1071-1122.
*Chrysanthus (martyr of Rome with his chaste wife Daria, S00306) - lines 1123-1250.
*Julianus/Ioulianos (martyr of Egypt and/or Antioch with his wife Basilissa, S01341) - lines 1251-1449.
*Amos/Amun (ascetic and monk of Nitria, S00419) - lines 1450-1503.
*Apollonius (ascetic and monastic leader in Egypt, 4th c., S02466) - lines 1504-1618.
*Jerome (Church Father, ob. 420, S00267) - lines 1619-52.

*Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) - lines 1673-1709.
*Caecilia (virgin and martyr of Rome, S00146) - lines 1710-35.
*Agatha (virgin and martyr of Catania, S00794) - lines 1736-78.
*Lucia (virgin and martyr of Syracuse, S00846) - lines 1789-41.
*Justina/Ioustina (virgin and martyr of Antioch, S01704) - lines 1842-82.
*Eugenia (virgin and martyr of Rome, S00401) - lines 1843-1924.
*Agnes (virgin and martyr of Rome, S00097) - lines 1924-74.
*Thekla (follower of the Apostle Paul, S00092) - lines 1975-2008.
*Eulalia (virgin and martyr of Mérida, S00407; or perhaps of Barcelona, S02047) - lines 2009-2023.
*Scholastica (nun of central Italy, ob. c. 543, S01728) - lines 2024-50.
*Constantina (virgin daughter of Emperor Constantine, ob. 354, S02468) - lines 2051-2120.
*Eustochium (virgin daughter of Paula, follower of Jerome, ob. c. 420, S02487) - lines 2021-2161.
*Demetrias (virgin and aristocrat of Rome, 5th c., S02488) - lines 2162-93.
*Chione, Eirene and Agape (martyrs of Thessalonike, S00206) - lines 2194-2278.
*Rufina and Secunda (virgins and martyrs of Silva Candida, near Rome, S00814) - lines 2279-2349.
*Victoria and Anatolia (martyrs of Picenum (central Italy), S01406) - lines 2350-2445.

Among these saints, the following appear only in this verse version of On Virginity:
*Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313)
*Jerome (Church Father, ob. 420, S00267)

The following saints from the prose On Virginity are not included in this verse version:
*Thomas (the Apostle, S00199)
*Felix (bishop and martyr of Thibiuca, S02084)
*Malchus (monk of Maronia (Syria), ob. c. 380, S00463)
*Christina (martyr of Tyre and Bolsena (central Italy), S00907)
*Dorothea (virgin and martyr of Caesarea, S01898)
*Joseph (patriarch, S00277)
*David (king of Israel, S00269)
*Samson (judge of the Israelites, S02496)
*Abel (second son of Adam, S02497)
*Melchizedek (king and priest of Salem, S01783)
*Judith (S02498)

Text: Ehwald, 1919, 226-323 (prose), 350-471 (verse).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Elijah, Old Testament prophet : S00217 Elisha, Old Testament prophet : S00239 Jeremiah, Old Testament prophet : S01421 Daniel, Old Testament prophet : S00727 Three Hebrew Youths of the Old Testament Book of Daniel : S01198 John the Baptist : S00

Saint Name in Source

Helias Heliseus Hieremias Danihel tres pueri Iohannes Iohannes Lucas Clemens Silvester Ambrosius Martinus Gregorius Basilius Antoninus Paulus Hilarion Iohannes Benedictus Gervasius nec non Protasius Narcissus Athanasius Babilas

Related Saint Records

Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Britain and Ireland

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

St Albans St Albans Verulamium

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Women Pagans Monarchs and their family Aristocrats Torturers/Executioners


Aldhelm's verse On Virginity (De Virginitate) survives through twenty manuscripts, and forms the second part of his 'twinned work' (opus geminatum), following an earlier prose version (see E06516 onwards). For a full discussion of the work and its author, see the individual entries for the prose On Virginity. The 2904 line poem offers more than a straightforward verse rendering of its prose counterpart. It differs substantially in the content of its opening and closing exhortations (not considered here), and presents 'strikingly different... figural' rather than 'literal' descriptions of the exemplary virginal saints who make up its core section (lines 248-2445): the two parts thus form a 'dipytch' rather than a 'simple versification' (Lapidge and Herren, 1979, 13-14). Nevertheless, the saints chosen, and the order in which they are presented, are largely unchanged from the prose. Lapidge (2007, 67-9) has declared the verse On Virginity to be effectively undatable, beyond the fact that it must have followed its prose counterpart (Aldhelm stated his intention to put the work to verse at the end of the prose text, but we have no clear idea of how long it then took him). Its terminus ante quem is Aldhelm's death in 709/10; the earliest manuscript is 8th century.


Aldhelm's treatment here of Jerome and the martyrs Gervasius and Protasius has no equivalent in the prose On Virginity. His source for the latter appears to have been the pseudo-Ambrosian Martyrdom and Invention of Gervasius and Protasius (E02498) (Lapidge and Rosier, 1985, 258).


Edition: Ehwald, R., Aldhelmi opera (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 15; Berlin, 1919). Translation: Lapidge, M., and Rosier, J.L., Aldhelm, The Poetic Works (Cambridge, 1985). Further reading: Lapidge, M., and Herren, M. Aldhelm, The Prose Works (Cambridge, 1979). Lapidge, M., "The Career of Aldhelm," Anglo-Saxon England 36 (2007), 15-69.