University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E06927: Aldhelm, in his poem On the Altars of the Twelve Apostles, records the dedication of an altar to *Bartholomew (the Apostle, S00256), 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, 4.9

Ultima terrarum praepollens India constat,
Quas tres in partes librorum scripta sequestrant.
Idola quae coluit paganis dedita sacris;
Sed Bartholomeus destruxit fana profana
Effigies veterum confringens iure deorum;
Ebrea quem clamat peregrinis lingua loquelis
'Proles suspendentis aquas in nubibus atris,'
Quod signat procerum 'caelestis ' dogma ' profundi, a
Umida nimbosis dum stillant aethera guttis,
Ut quondam cecinit psalmorum carmine vates:
'Ecce, latex rorat tenebrosus nubibus aeris.'
Post haec martirii mercatur serta cruenta
Et sequitur Dominum pictus cum stigmate Christi:
Cuius hoc templum veneranda tuebitur ara.

'ix. On St Bartholomew
Mighty India stands as the last of the lands of the earth, which the writings in books divide up into three parts. Given over to pagan rites, India used to worship idols. But Bartholomew destroyed the pagan shrines, duly smashing the images of the pagan gods. A dialect of the Hebrew language [i.e. Syriac] names him 'the offspring of one suspending the waters in black clouds' – inasmuch as humid skies drip with swelling drops – which refers to the exalted doctrine concerning the 'vast heaven', as the poet of the Psalms once sang in verse: 'Behold, the dark water drips from the clouds of the sky' [Psalm 17:12].

After these events (Bartholomew) purchased martyrdom with a bloody garland and, marked with the stigma of Christ, he follows his Lord. This church shall be protected by the venerable altar in this name.'

Text: Ehwald 1919, 28. Translation: Lapidge and Rosier 1985, 55.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Bartholomew, the Apostle : S00256

Saint Name in Source


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


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.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager