Britannia Biographies: St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury
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Biography of St. Dunstan (AD 909-988), Archbishop of Canterbury
By Jack L. Ralston of Fayetteville State University

S T.   D U N S T A N
Archbishop & Statesman

Born: AD 909 at Baltonborough, Somerset
Parents: Heorstan (Father) & Cynethryth (Mother)
Abbot of Glastonbury
Bishop of Worcester
Bishop of London
Archbishop of Canterbury
Died: 19th May AD 988 at Canterbury, Kent

St. Dunstan, the son of a West Saxon noble, was born in AD 909 and received his early education from the Irish monks who had settled at Glastonbury. After living for a time at the Court of King Aethelstan, he became a monk at Glastonbury and devoted himself to the study of the Scriptures and to prayer. At the same time, he became skilled in the arts of painting and music and metalworking, particularly the making church bells and organs.

Having been summoned to the Court of King Edmund the Magnificent, he became one of his chief councillors. The King, however, lent too ready an ear to malicious accusations which were brought against Dunstan and dismissed him; but afterwards regretted his injustice and made him Abbot of Glastonbury.

Soon after, he became the treasurer and chief adviser of King Eadred and the Queen-mother; but powerful enemies drove him from the Court of King Eadwig All-Fair and he was obliged to take refuge in Flanders until the accession of Edgar the Peaceable, who recalled him and made him his chief minister. He was also appointed Bishop of Worcester and of London and, in AD 960, became Archbishop of Canterbury.

Amongst all those who have directed the government of the State whilst holding the highest office in the Church, Dunstan is entitled to a place of honour. He laboured with no small success to establish peace amongst the different peoples settled in England. He sought to raise the standard of monastic life. He built and endowed churches. He delighted in teaching and encouraged the clergy to acquire knowledge that they might be the teachers of the nation.

After the brief reign of King Edward the Martyr had been closed by his tragic death, Dunstan took part in the Coronation of Aethelred the Unready. His death occurred in AD 988 and his body was claimed by both Canterbury and Glastonbury.

Edited from G.M. Bevan's "Portraits of the Archbishops of Canterbury" (1908).

Primary studies in the Quadrivium bymonks at Glastonbury Abbey, and visiting Irish monks. Ecclesiastical studies under Uncle Aefheah "the Bald" Bishop of Winchester, and Private studies for monastic life and the priesthood. Benedictine monastic studies in Flanders under reform Monks from Cluny.

Ordination into priesthood:
21st October AD 935

Administrative Experience:
Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey (940)
Bishop of Worcester (957)
Bishop of London (959)
Archbishop of Canterbury (960)
Councilor to the King of England/Wessex, Edgar, "the Peaceful"
Appointed Papal Legate for England, by Pope John XII

Foreign Travel:
Flanders, 956-7; studied Benedictine Observances of Cluny at the Abbey of Blandinium
Rome, 960

Received Bishop's Pallium from Pope John XII (September 21, 960)

Languages (read and spoken):
Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Hebrew, Greek

Special Talents and Abilities:
Manuscript copying and illumination
Worker in gold and silver
Embroidery of sacred vestments
Musical abilities, build organ(s), cast bells, composed music

Memorials and Artifacts:
Assisted with the preparation and promulgation of Regularis Concordia (Introduced at the Synod of Winchester by close friend, Aethelwald, the supposed author)
Countless illuminated manuscripts

Career Highlights:
Teacher, Priest, Monk, Bishop, Benedictine Monk, Judge, Administrator for the King

St. Aethelwald, Bishop of Worcester
St. Oswald, Archbishop of York
St. Wulfsin, Bishop of Sherbourne
King Edgar the Peaceable of Wessex      Copyright ©1999, LLC