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E06930: Aldhelm, in his poem On the Altars of the Twelve Apostles, records the dedication of an altar to *Jude Thaddaeus (the Apostle, S00792), presumably in Britain; he then concludes the poem with a prayer for forgiveness. Written in Latin in southern Britain, c. 670/710.

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posted on 2018-10-17, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Aldhelm, Carmina Ecclesiastica, 4.12-13

Supremus numerum concludat Thaddeus almum,
Cui cognomen erat praedictum Libbeus olim;
Quem duxisse ferunt Christi cum grammate scedam
Abgaro, quondam qui regni sceptra regebat,
Postquam Tartareum damnavit morte tyrannum
Et tetris herebi gaudens emersit ab antris,
Exin sidereum Christus conscendit Olimpum .
Dicitur hic etiam vulgato nomine Iudas;
Cuius praesenti laudes celebrantur in aula.

Qui nobis unum facundo famine biblum
Edidit antiquas promulgans ore loquelas,
Quas Enoch prisco descripsit tempore vates,
Ante rapax mundum quam pontus plecteret undis,
Dicens: 'Ecce, venit Dominus cum milibus almis
Ponere iudicium cunctis habitantibus orbem!'
Quos nubes appellat aqua stillante carentes,
Frigida quas rapidis dispergunt flamina ventis,
Nec non arboribus sterili de stipite natis
Comparat, autumni quae fructum tempore perdunt;
Sic quoque spumiferis undarum fluctibus aequat
Errabunda vocans caelorum sidera sontes,
Quis servata restat tenebrosis poena procellis.

Nempe feras gentes et Ponti barbara regna
Iudas ad Dominum doctrinis flexerat almis;
Cuius in Armenia sopitum morte cadaver
Exsurrecturum fatali fine quiescit,
Sed tamen aethereas lustravit spiritus arces.

Iam bis sena simul digessi nomina patrum.
E quibus altithrono conversus credidit orbis.
Hos precibus verna crebris et pectore pulso,
Ut mihi clementer noxarum pondera laxent
Et veniam dantes commissa piacula solvant,
Quatenus in requiem divina gratia fretus
Ultimus ingrediar Christo regnante per aethram.

'xii. On St Thaddeus (Jude)
The last (apostle), Thaddeus, concludes the holy number (twelve); his name had formerly been Libbeus [Mt. 10:3]. They say that he brought a letter in Christ's own handwriting to Abgar, who once ruled the sceptres of the realm, (written) after Christ had condemned the tyrant of hell to death and emerged rejoicing from the dark abyss of hell; He thereupon ascended the starry heavens. This man is commonly known by the name of Jude; his praise is celebrated in the present church.

Jude produced for us one book in elegant writing [i.e. the biblical Epistle of Jude], bringing forth from his mouth the ancient words which the prophet Enoch had written down in days of yore, before the all-engulfing Flood had punished the world with its waters, saying: 'Behold the Lord comes with his holy thousands to impose judgement on all those who inhabit the earth' [Jude 14]. He describes these (sinners) as clouds devoid of dripping rainwater which freezing winds disperse with impetuous blasts [cf. Jude 12]; he also compares them to trees sprung from a sterile trunk which lose their fruit in the autumn; he likens them as well to the foaming surges of the waves, referring to these guilty (sinners) as the wandering stars of the heavens [Jude 13] for whom a punishment in (the realms of) shadowy tempests is reserved (in the hereafter).

To be sure, Jude, with his holy teaching, converted the savage races and barbarous realms of Pontus to the Lord. His body lies in Armenia, released through death, to be resurrected at the end of allotted time; but his spirit nevertheless traverses the heavenly citadels.

xiii. Conclusion
I have now set out the twelve names of the (apostolic) fathers through whom the world was converted to belief in High-throned God. I, (their abject) servant, humbly beseech them in my heart with frequent prayers that they may mercifully remit the burden of my sins and, offering forgiveness, may absolve the iniquities I have committed so that, sustained by divine grace, I may enter as the last into (eternal) peace, with Christ reigning in heaven.'

Text: Ehwald 1919, 30-31. Translation: Lapidge and Rosier 1985, 56-7.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Jude Thaddaeus, Apostle, one of the Twelve : S00792 Addai/Thaddeus the Apostle, one of the seventy-two : S00255

Saint Name in Source

Thaddeus, Iudas

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 - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family


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. Like many other authors, he conflates Jude 'Thaddaeus' (S00792), one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ, with Thaddaeus/Addai (S00255), one of the seventy-two lesser apostles, who was closely involved with Edessa and the story of Christ's letter to Abgar. For this account of Thaddaeus and Christ's letter to King Abgar, he also makes use of (Rufinus' translation of) Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History (1.13). (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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