[St. Pachomius Library]

St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury

X Century
The early life of St. Dunstan is lost in legend. The scion of a noble or royal family, he is said to have been born near Glastonbury and to have been educated at Canterbury, where an uncle was the archbishop. Another uncle, St. Alphege, was bishop of Winchester. Dunstan entered the court of King Æthelstan when he had finished his education. Jealousy led to an accusation of sorcery c. 935, and Dunstan was expelled. He became a Benedictine monk, and Edmund of Wessex appointed him abbot of Glastonbury in 943. Dunstan introduced the Rule of St. Benedict to replace an existing Celtic rule and established the monastery as a center of learning. An advisor to King Edred, he preached peace with the Danes and rebuked the nobles, with whom he was unpopular, for their immorality. In 955, Edwy, successor to Edred, banished Dunstan to Ghent, where he studied European monastic practices. On his return, Dunstan reformed English monasticism and re-established foundations at a number of places, including Ely and Thorney. Edgar appointed him archbishop of Canterbury in 960, and John XII appointed him papal legate the following year. Dunstan continued to advise kings until the reign of Ethelred the Unready (978-1016) and remained an active pastor until his own death in 988. Dunstan was also a noted musican, embroiderer, and illuminator.

Karen Rae Keck


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