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E06920: Aldhelm, in his poem On the Altars of the Twelve Apostles, records the dedication of an altar to *Paul (the Apostle, S00008), presumably in Britain. Written in Latin in southern Britain, c. 670/710.

online resource
posted on 2018-10-17, 00:00 authored by bsavill
Aldhelm, Carmina Ecclesiastica, 4.2

Saulus, qui sanctas multavit carcere turbas,
Credulus efficitur mutato nomine Paulus,
Plurima frugiferis dispergens semina verbis.
De quo sacra seges mundi succrevit in occa;
Quem Deus infidum caeli clamavit ab arce :
'Quid me persequeris dura cum calce refragans?'
Ergo diem ac noctem ponti sub gurgite mersus
Magna supernarum meruit spectacula rerum;
Tertia caelorum raptus fastigia scandit
Atque poli proceros vidit cum mente maniplos.
Quem pithonissa procax clamavit voce proterva:
Spiritus abscessit Paulo purgante puellam
In vacuasque procul fugiens evanuit auras.
Effebum puerum lustrantem tartara mortis
Suscitat in proprias anima penetrante medullas.
Nonne magum merito geminis fraudavit ocellis,
Cerneret ut numquam splendentem lumine Phoebum?
Cruribus atque suris claudum restaurat egrotum ,
Quem fortuna prius gressu privavit egentem;
Sic patrem Pupli, quem febris torsit anhela,
(Torridus atque calor frigus brumale coquebat
Nec non extales multavit poena pudenda)
Curavit citius Domino tribuente medelam.
Dum sarmenta pius glomeraret Paulus ad ignem,
Torribus ut pellat brumosis frigora nimbis,
Vipera dira manum letali dente momordit;
Sed Paulus gelidum non sensit vulnere virus
Laedere nec sanctum valuit crudele venenum;
Denique squamosa contectum pelle celydrum
Protinus in flammas torrendum tradidit atras.

Postquam complevit labentis tempora vitae,
Martirium rubro quaesivit sanguine sacrum
Purpureusque cruor venarum fonte cucurrit.
Ossa tegat tellus quamvis modo mole sepulcri,
Ast tamen in proceras conscendit spiritus arces
Coetibus angelicis nimbosa per aethera ductus.

'ii. On St Paul
Saul, who punished holy crowds (of Christians) with prison sentences, is made a believer with the altered name of Paul, sowing many seeds through his fruit-bearing words: from Paul the holy crop grew in the ploughed field of the world. God called down to him, (while he was still) an unbeliever, from the summit of heaven: 'Why do you persecute me, kicking (against me) with a hard boot?' [cf. Acts 9:4-5]. Accordingly, when he was submerged by day and night under the waters of the sea [II Cor. 11:25], he was found worthy (to behold) mighty visions of heavenly occurrences; transported, he ascended to the third summit of heaven, and in his mind he gazed on the excellent companies of the heavenly host. The insolent priestess of Delphi called out to Paul in a vehement voice; Paul purified the girl (and) the spirit departed – fleeing far off it disappeared into the empty air [Acts 36:16-18]. Paul resuscitated an adolescent boy [i.e. Eustychus] who was entering the abodes of death, so that his spirit quickened the boy's own limbs [Acts 20:9-12]. And did he not – rightly – deprive the sorcerer [i.e. Elymas] of (the sight of) his two eyes, so that he could never again see the sun with its radiant light [Acts 13:16-18]? He restored a sick man who was lame in the shins and calves, whom fate had previously deprived of the ability to walk [Acts 14:7-9]. Likewise, with the Lord granting a remedy, he quickly cured the father of Publius, whom a gasping fever was torturing: an excessively high temperature was roasting him and (alternating with periods of) icy coldness and an embarrassing pain was afflicting his intestines (with dysentery) [Acts 28:8]. As St Paul was piling a bundle of brushwood on the fire so that its heat might drive away the chill of the wintry fog, a poisonous viper fastened on his hand with its deadly fangs; but Paul did not feel the cold poison in the wound, nor was the fierce venom able to harm the saint; thereupon he cast the viper, with its covering of scaly skin, straight into the fire, to be consumed in the black flames [Acts 28:3-6].

After he had completed the course of this transient life, he sought a holy martyrdom with his red blood, and the purple gore flowed from the fountain of his veins. Although the earth heaped up in a tomb now covered his bones, his spirit nevertheless ascended the high citadels (of heaven), guided through the cloudy reaches of the upper sky by angelic hosts.'

Text: Ehwald 1919, 20-22. Translation: Lapidge and Rosier 1985, 51.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Paul, the Apostle : S00008

Saint Name in Source

Saulus, Paulus

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 - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Assumption/otherworldly journey Healing diseases and disabilities Exorcism Power over life and death Punishing miracle Miracle with animals and plants Miracle during lifetime


The Carmina Ecclesiastica is an editor's title for a collection of five dedicatory poems for churches and altars (tituli) by the Anglo-Saxon scholar Aldhelm (ob. 709/10), who probably never intended them to be viewed together as a single group (Lapidge and Rosier, 1985, 35-45). Aldhelm appears to have been a son of Centwine, king of the Gewisse or West Saxons (south-west Britain) from 676 until 682/5, when he abdicated and retired to a monastery. We do not know when Aldhelm himself took religious vows, but he definitely attended, perhaps for many years, Archbishop Theodore and Abbot Hadrian’s school at Canterbury (from shortly after 670?), and possibly studied at the Irish foundation of Iona, off the coast of north-west Britain (perhaps in the 660s?). Around 682/6 he became abbot of the West Saxon monastery of Malmesbury, and in 689 probably accompanied King Cædwalla on his pilgrimage to Rome (see E05710 and E06661). In 705/6 he was appointed ‘bishop west of the wood’ in his home kingdom (later identifiable with the diocese of Sherborne). (For all aspects of Aldhelm’s career, see Lapidge, 2007.) Carmen Ecclesiasticum 4 is by far the longest poem of the group, and is divided into twelve parts, one for each of the twelve Apostles (with Paul as the replacement for Judas Iscariot); we have entered each of these parts separately into our database, as E06919-E06930. The poem survives through four continental European manuscripts.


Bugga's church in Carmen Ecclesiasticum 3, with its primary dedication to Mary, is described as having 'holy altars [which] gleam in twelve-fold dedication' (E06918), so it is possible that the twelve poems to the different Apostles of Carmen Ecclesiasticum 4 relate to twelve altars in this church. Even if they refer to different institutions, the two poems suggest that twelve-fold apostolic dedications of churches may not have been unusual in the early Anglo-Saxon church. Aldhelm's main source for Carmen Ecclesiasticum 4 is Isidore of Seville's On the Origin and Death of the Fathers. (See further Lapidge and Rosier, 1985, 41-44, 239-42.)


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., "The Career of Aldhelm," Anglo-Saxon England 36 (2007), 15-69.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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