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E06931: Aldhelm's poem On Saint Matthias the Apostle records the dedication of a shrine (dilubrum) to *Matthias (the Apostle, S01784), 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, 5

Hoc sacer observat dilubrum Mathias almum,
Unus qui fertur de septuaginta fuisse
Discipulis Domini, sacrum qui dogma docebant;
Quem Deus electum signavit sorte superna,
Dum Iudas Scarioth strofa deceptus iniqua
Culmen apostolici celsum perdebat honoris
Atque fibras olidas tetro cum viscere fudit,
Cum crepuit medius laqueo suspensus ab alto,
Qui Dominum lucis redimentem sanguine saecla
Vendidit, ut cupidus fulvum nomisma capessat.
Mathias idcirco spreto latrone nefando
In Domino fretus numerum supplevit eundem:
Iunctus apostolicis gratatur iure triumphis.

St Matthias watches over this holy shrine. He is said to have been one of the Lord's seventy disciples who taught His holy doctrine. God marked him out as elect by divine lot [Acts 1:24-6] when Judas Iscariot, deceived by evil malice, lost the lofty glory of his apostolic calling and poured out his stinking guts together with his blackened bowels when he burst open as he hung from the lofty noose [Mt. 27:5]: he had sold the Lord of Light Who redeems all ages with His blood, so that he could greedily acquire a burnished coin [Mt. 26:14-16]. Accordingly Matthias, trusting in the Lord and having spurned the evil thief, made up the same number (of twelve apostles): he duly rejoices in being associated with apostolic victories.'

Text: Ehwald 1919, 32. Translation: Lapidge and Rosier 1985, 57-8.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Matthias, the Apostle : S01784

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 5 survives through four continental European manuscripts.


Ehwald (1919) reckoned this poem as commemorating the dedication of a distinct ecclesia, but Lapidge considers it an 'afterthought' or 'sort of appendix' to the verses on twelve apostolic altars that make up Carmen Ecclesiasticum 4 (E06919 onwards), and 'unlikely ... to have been intended as a titulus for an actual church or altar' (Lapidge and Rosier, 1985, 44, 242). As our database shows, there is very little evidence for a cult of Matthias the Apostle in Late Antiquity.


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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