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E06917: Aldhelm's poem On the Basilica of the Blessed Mary, Perpetual Virgin records the dedication of a church to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), presumably in Britain. Written in Latin in southern Britain, c. 670/710.

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posted on 17.10.2018, 00:00 by bsavill
Aldhelm, Carmina Ecclesiastica, 2

Hanc aulam Domini servat tutela Mariae ,
Cui veneranda rudis sacrantur culmina templi
Et nova consurgunt sacris vexilla triumphis.
Hac celebratur honor sacrae genetricis in aula,
Quae verum genuit lumen de lumine patris;
Quem clamant Titan almo spiramine vates.

Femina praepollens et sacra puerpera virgo,
Audi clementer populorum vota precantum,
Marcida qui riguis umectant imbribus ora
Ac genibus tundunt curvato poplite terram,
Dum veniam fuso lacrimarum fonte merentur
Et crebris precibus delent peccamina vitae!

Haec, inquam, virgo caelesti pignore feta
Edidit ex alvo salvantem saecula regem,
Imperium mundi solus qui iure gubernat,
Ut dudum angelico discit virguncula fatu,
Cum pater altithronus Gabrihel misisset ab astris.

Haec fuit, egregius quam promit carmine vates,
Qui Solimis quondam dives regnavit in arvis:
Hortus conclusus florenti vertice vernans,
Fons quoque signatus caelesti gurgite pollens
Necnon et turtur tremulus; cui praescius infit
Angelus: 'En sobolem generabis virgo perennem
Atque puerperium paritura puerpera gignes;
Filius altithroni faustus vocitetur in aevum!
Spiritus e caelo veniet sanctissimus in te:
Virtus ecce tuo confert umbracula cordi;
Patris obumbrabit te, virgo, celsa potestas.'
Quo dictu matri turgescunt viscera fetu,
Qui genitus mundum miseranda labe resolvit
Atque crucifixus polluta piacula tersit.

Mary's protection keeps this house of the Lord: to her the venerable heights of this new church are consecrated, and new banners with their holy victories stand forth. In this church is proclaimed the glory of the Holy Mother, who bore the True Light from the light of the Father, Whom prophets with divine inspiration acclaim as Titan [i.e. the sun]!

Excellent lady and holy virgin mother: listen mercifully to the petitions of these people praying, who moisten their withered faces with streams of tears and, on bended leg, strike the earth with their knees, seeing that they deserve forgiveness from the flowing fountain of their tears and obliterate the sins of their life with their continual prayers.

This Virgin, I tell you, pregnant with heavenly offspring, produced from her womb the King Who redeems all ages, Who alone rightly controls the government of the world – just as this young maiden had previously learned from an angelic announcement, when the high-throned Father sent Gabriel (down) from the stars.

It was she whom the excellent prophet [i.e. Solomon], who once ruled as a wealthy man over the fields of Jerusalem, revealed in his song: "(My sister, my spouse) is a garden closed up, versant on the flowering summit [sc. of Libanus], a fountain sealed up, welling from the heavenly pool [cf. Song of Songs 4:2], a quivering dove [Song of Songs 2:14, 5:2, 6:8]." To her the prescient angel began to speak: "Behold, you shall beget an immortal offspring and you, a mother about to give birth, shall bring forth an infant; let this Son of the high-throned (God) be called blessed for all eternity! The Holy Spirit shall come unto you from heaven" behold, its might provides a (shady) bower for your heart; the heavenly power of the Father, holy maiden, shall protect you'. When this had been said the mother's womb swelled with the child Who, when He had been born, delivered the world from its lamentable defect (of sin) and, when He had been crucified, wiped away its foul wickedness.'

Text: Ehwald 1919, 12-13. Translation: Lapidge and Rosier 1985, 47, title lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems



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 - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Church

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 2 survives through four continental European manuscripts.


It is impossible to link this titulus securely to any known Anglo-Saxon church dedicated to Mary, although Malmesbury and Bruton (both south-west Britain) have been mooted (see further Lapidge and Rosier, 1985, 39-40, 233).


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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