Posted by: anna | February 17, 2010

St Aldate of Gloucester

Today (4 February) we commemorate St. Aldate of Gloucester, hieromartyr (577).

St Aldate’s name is well remembered in Oxford, as it is attached to one of the streets in the centre of town, and to a lively city centre church. But not much else about him! From Baring-Gould & Fisher, vol.2:

S. ELDAD, or ALDATE, Bishop, Martyr

Eldad was son of Geraint ab Carannog, of the race of Cadell Deyrnllwg. Geraint, or in Latin, Gerascen, seems to have been Prince of Erging or Archenfield, in Herefordshire. Eldad was bishop at Caer Loew, or Gloucester, after having been trained in the college of S. Illtyd. He had as brothers SS. Meven and Ustig.

In 577 occurred the invasion of the Severn Valley by the West Saxons.

“Below the Cotswolds, in the valley of the Severn, Glevum, the predecessor of our Gloucester . . . was important from its position at the head of the estuary, and from its neighbourhood to the ironworks of the Forest of Dean. Less in extent, but conspicuous from the grandeur of its public buildings, Bath was then, as in later times, the fashionable resort of the gouty provincials. Its hot springs were covered by a colonnade which lasted down to almost recent times ; and its local deity, Sul, may still have found worshippers in the lordly temple whose fragments are found among its ruins. The territory of the three towns (Cirencester, Gloucester, and Bath) shows their power, for it comprised the whole district of the Cotswolds and the lower Severn, with a large part of what is now northern Somersetshire. It stretched therefore from Mendip on the south as far northwards as the forest which then covered almost the whole of Wor-
cestershire.”

Into this fertile district, thick strewn with villas, and where much of the old Roman civilization remained, poured the barbarians.

A furious battle was fought at Deorham, the Britons commanded by their three kings Conmael, Cyndylan and Farimael, against Ceawlin and his ruffians on the heights that command the Severn valley. It resulted in the victory of the Saxons, and the flying Britons were pursued to Bath, Gloucester and Cirencester, and the towns were sacked and burnt, and the inhabitants massacred.

It was probably then, amidst the flames of the city, and the crumbling down of the ancient civilization of Roman Britain, that Eldad was slaughtered, in 577, by “the pagan Saxons.”

Of details we have none.

Later, a church was raised at Gloucester to the memory of the prelate, the only Bishop of Gloucester till at the Reformation Henry VIII re-created it as an episcopal see.

But the memory of Eldad the martyred Bishop did not cling only to the site of his death, for in Oxford also there is a church that has him for patron.

His brother Meven escaped, and after founding a church in Cornwall, took refuge in Brittany, where he established a monastery that became renowned in the Middle Ages as the Abbey of S. Meen.

The name of Eldad or Aldate occurs in a Gloucester Calendar of the fifteenth century {Add, MS. 30,506) on February 4 ; also in a Gloucester Calendar in the Bodleian (Rawlinson, Lett. f. i), and in a fragmentary Calendar {Add. MS. 16,380) of the thirteenth century, in Whytford, and in the Calendar of Nicolas Roscarrock, always on the same day. He occurs in a Martyrology written between 1220

and 1324 (MS. Reg. 2, A. km), and in the Altemps Martyrology of the thirteenth century. He is also in the Sarum Martyrology. Leland mentions him, but quotes from Geoffrey of Monmonth, who makes him brother of Eldol, Count of Gloucester, and brings him into conflict with Hengist, which is absurd as Hengist never penetrated into the west, and died some eighty years before the battle of Deorham was fought. One of the “Sayings of the Wise” triplets runs : «—

Hast thou heard the saying of Eldad
When counselling his countrymen ?
” To the pious God gives graoe.”
(Dedwydd Dofydd a’i rhydd rhad.)

= * = * =
More:

Troparion of St Aldate tone 1
Through thy pious upbringing thou didst become a shining beacon of/ the Orthodox Faith,/ O Hierarch Aldate./ Wherefore, O Saint, intercede for us that not straying from the true Faith,/ we may attain eternal salvation.

Kontakion of St Aldate tone 2
As a torch of truth, a tower of strength, a bastion of Faith, O Martyr Hierarch Aldate,/ thou art the adornment of Gloucester, the joy of all our nation and most worthy of all praise.

Holy St Aldate, pray to God for us.

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