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E06918: Aldhelm's poem On the Church of Mary Built by Bugga records the consecration on 15/16 August of a church with an apse dedicated to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), constructed by a daughter of Centwine, king of the West Saxons (south-west Britain), apparently in that same kingdom. Written in Latin in southern Britain, 689/710.

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posted on 17.10.2018, 00:00 by bsavill
Aldhelm, Carmina Ecclesiastica, 3


Hoc templum Bugge pulchro molimine structum
Nobilis erexit Centvvini filia regis ,
Qui prius imperium Saxonum rite regebat ,
Donec praesentis contemnens culmina regni
Divitias mundi rerumque reliquit habenas,
Plurima basilicis impendens rura novellis,
Exin sacratam perrexit quaerere vitam,
Dum proprium linquit Christi pro nomine regnum;
Qui tamen ante tribus gessit certamina pugnis
Et ternis pariter confecit bella triumphis.
Sic rexit regnum plures feliciter annos,
Donec conversus cellam migravit in almam.
Inde petit superas meritis splendentibus arces
Angelicis turmis ad caeli culmina ductus;
Caelicolis iunctus laetatur sorte superna.

Post hunc successit bello famosus et armis
Rex Caedvvalla, potens regni possessor et heres;
Sed mox imperium mundi sceptrumque relinquens
Turgida cum ratibus sulcabat caerula curvis
Et maris aequoreos lustrabat remige campos.
Algida ventosis crepitabant carbasa flabris,
Donec barca rudi pulsabat litora rostro;
Exin nimbosas transcendit passibus Alpes
Aggeribus niveis et montis vertice saeptas.
Cuius in adventu gaudet clementia Romae
Et simul ecclesia laetatur clerus in urbe,
Dum mergi meruit baptismi gurgite felix.
Post albas igitur morbo correptus egrescit,
Donec mortalis clausit spiracula vitae
Alta supernorum conquirens regna polorum,
Clarum stelligeri conscendens culmen Olimpi.

Sed hic principibus caelum penetrantibus altum,
Quorum descripsi iam bina vocabula dudum,
Tertius accepit sceptrum regnator opimum,
Quem clamant Ini certo cognomine gentes;
Qui nunc imperium Saxonum iure gubernat.
Quo regnante novum praecelsa mole sacellum
Bugge construxit, supplex vernacula Christi,
Qua fulgent arae bis seno nomine sacrae;
Insuper absidam consecrat Virginis arae.
Praesentem ergo diem cuncti celebremus ovantes
Et reciproca Deo modulemur carmina Christo!
Menstrua volvuntur alternis tempora festis
Et vicibus certis annorum lustra rotabunt:
Dulcibus antifonae pulsent concentibus aures
Classibus et geminis psalmorum concrepet oda;
Ymnistae crebro vox articulata resultet
Et celsum quatiat clamoso carmine culmen!
Fratres concordi laudemus voce Tonantem
Cantibus et crebris conclamet turba sororum;
Ymnos ac psalmos et responsoria festis
Congrua promamus subter testudine templi
Psalterii melos fantes modulamine crebro
Atque decem fidibus nitamur tendere liram ,
Ut psalmista monet bis quinis psallere fibris ;
Unusquisque novum comat cum voce sacellum
Et lector lectrixve volumina sacra revolvant !

Istam nempe diem, qua templi festa coruscant,
Nativitate sua sacravit virgo Maria,
Quam iugiter renovant Augusti tempora mensis,
Dividitur medio dum torrens Sextilis orbe;
Qui nobis iterum restaurat gaudia mentis,
Dum vicibus redeunt solemnia festa Mariae
Et veneranda piis flagrant altaria donis.

Haec domus interius resplendet luce serena,
Quam sol per vitreas illustret forte fenestras
Limpida quadrato diffundens lumina templo.
Plurima basilicae sunt ornamenta recentis:
Aurea contortis flavescunt pallia filis,
Quae sunt altaris sacri velamina pulchra,
Aureus atque calix gemmis fulgescit opertus,
Ut caelum rutilat stellis ardentibus aptum,
Ac lata argento constat fabricata patena:
Quae divina gerunt nostrae medicamina vitae;
Corpore nam Christi sacroque cruore nutrimur.
Hic crucis ex auro splendescit lamina fulvo
Argentique simul gemmis ornata metalla;
Hic quoque turibulum capitellis undique cinctum
Pendit de summo fumosa foramina pandens,
De quibus ambrosia spirabunt tura Sabaea,
Quando sacerdotes missas offerre iubentur.

Nunc clara ingenito dicatur gloria patri
Nec minus et genito promatur gloria nato
Spiritus atque sacer consorti laude fruatur!


'ON THE CHURCH OF MARY BUILT BY BUGGA
The renowned daughter of King Centwine built this church: it was erected through the excellent effort of Bugga.

Centwine formerly wielded justly the government of the (West) Saxons, until, rejecting the summits of this temporal realm, he abandoned his worldly wealth and the reins of power by granting many estates to recently-established churches in which Christian worshippers now keep their monastic vows. Thereupon he set out to seek the holy way of life as he abandoned his hereditary kingdom in the name of Christ; nevertheless, he had previously waged war in three battles, and had likewise brought them to a conclusion with three victories. Thus he ruled his kingdom happily for several years until, having been converted, he retired to a holy (monastic) cell. Thereafter he sought the heavenly citadels by virtue of his resplendent merits, and was led by angelic throngs to the summits of heaven; united with the citizens of heaven he now rejoices in his celestial deserts.

After him King Cædwalla, renowned in war and arms, succeeded to the kingdom, a powerful occupant of the throne and its rightful heir. But, abandoning soon afterwards the sceptre and government of the world, he furrowed the swelling waters [i.e. the English Channel] with the curved keel (of his boat) and traversed the briny expanses of the sea by oar. The frozen sails crackled in the windy blasts until the ship touched the shore with untried prow; thereafter he crossed on foot the stormy Alps, closed in by massive glaciers and mountain peaks. The clemency of Rome rejoiced in Cædwalla's arrival; and at the same time the clergy of the church in Rome rejoiced as the blessed man was found worthy to be immersed in the waters of baptism. Consumed with illness, then, he began to sicken after the had taken the baptismal chrism, until at last he ceased to draw breath in this mortal life – seeking the lofty realms of the celestial kingdom, ascending to the shiny summit of starry heaven.

But as these kings – whose two names I have just disclosed – made their way to heaven on high, a third ruler here took up the noble sceptre, whom all peoples acclaim by the specific name of Ine; he is now duly reigning over the kingdom of the West Saxons. During his reign Bugga, a humble servant of Christ, built this new church with its lofty structure, in which holy altars gleam in twelve-fold dedication; moreover, she dedicates the apse to the Virgin. Therefore let us all rejoicing celebrate this present day and let us chant hymns in turn to Christ the Lord! The months revolve with their successive feast-days, and cycles of years pass with the feasts in fixed order: (on this day each year) may antiphons strike the ear with their pleasing harmonies and the singing of psalms reverberate from twin choirs; may the trained voice of the precentor resound repeatedly and shake the summit of heaven with it sonorous chant!

Brothers, let us praise God in harmonious voice, and let the throng of nuns burst forth in continual psalmody! On these feast-days let us all chant hymns and psalms and appropriate responds beneath the roof of the church, intoning the melodies with the continuous accompaniment of the psaltery; and let us strive to tune the lyre with its ten strings – just as the psalmist urges us to "praise (the Lord) with ten strings" (cf. Psalm 32:2]. Let each one of us adorn the new church with his singing, and let each lector – whether male of female – read the lessons from Holy Scripture.

With her own birth the Virgin Mary consecrated this very day, on which the dedication of Bugga's church gleams brightly – the day which the month of August perpetually renews, when torrid Sextilis [i.e. the Roman month of August] is divided in the midst of its rotation [i.e. on 15 or 16 August]. It restores once again the joys in our minds when the feast of St Mary returns at its accustomed time, when the holy altars are redolent with the holy gifts (of incense).

The church glows within the gentle light on occasions when the sun shines through the glass windows, diffusing its clear light through the rectangular church. The new church has many ornaments: a golden cloth glistens with its twisted threads and forms a beautiful covering for the sacred altar. And a golden chalice covered with jewels gleams so that it seems to reflect the heavens with their bright stars; and there is a large paten made from silver. These [the chalice and the paten] bear the holy medication for our life – for we are nourished by the body and blood of Christ. Here glistens the metal of the Cross made from burnished gold and adorned at the same time with silver and jewels. Here too a thurible embossed on all sides hangs suspended from on high, having vaporous openings from which the Sabaean frankincense emits ambrosia when the priests are asked to perform mass.

Now let the bright glory be to the unbegotten Father, and let glory no less be offered to the begotten Son, and may the Holy Ghost receive equal praise!'


Text: Ehwald 1919, 14-18. Translation: Lapidge and Rosier 1985, 47-9, very lightly modified.

History

Evidence ID

E06918

Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source

Maria

Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

689

Evidence not after

710

Activity not before

689

Activity not after

710

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

Aldhelm

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Chant and religious singing

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Monarchs and their family Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - Popes

Source

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 3 survives through three continental European manuscripts.

Discussion

We know from much later sources that King Centwine was probably Aldhelm's father, and so the Bugga praised here was presumably the poet's sister. 'Bugga' is itself probably an affectionate pet-name, perhaps for Osburg, a nun of Barking described by Aldhelm as 'related (to me) by the family bonds of kinship' in his prose On Virginity (E06516) (for these identifications see Lapidge, 2007, 17-21). The account of King Cædwalla's pilgrimage to Rome derives in part from his Lateran epitaph, to which Aldhelm was probably an eyewitness (E05710); it establishes a terminus post quem of 689 for the poem. The poet's praise for Ine (ob. 726) as reigning king of the (West) Saxons does not permit a terminus ante quem any later than Aldhelm's death, although it presumably allows us to locate Bugga's church to somewhere within the West Saxon kingdom. Lapidge (1985, 237) suggests there are difficulties with accepting Aldhelm's identification of 15/16 August as the feast of Mary's birthday (nativitatis), since the Nativity of Mary was celebrated on 8 September (cf. E05859), and her Assumption/Dormition in August. But this poses no problems if we understand nativitas as indicating Mary's 'birthday' into heaven: compare 16 August in the Calendar of Willibrord (703/10), in which an obvious erasure suggests that the entry may have originally read natiuitas sanctae mariae, before the first word was removed, plausibly to avoid confusion with the September festival (see discussion and image for E05858).

Bibliography

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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