(c.909-988), Archbishop of Canterbury (961-988)
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St Dunstan (c.909-988), Archbishop of Canterbury (961-988) during the Saxon period plagued by Viking raids, best known for the many tales recounted of his cunning in dealings with the Devil.

Dunstan unusual amongst Anglo-Saxon saints in that we know where (if not when) he was born; in the Somersetshire village of Baltonsborough a few miles south of Glastonbury. His father, Heorstan, was a Wessex nobleman of royal blood (his mother was Cynethryth) and his family connections would later greatly benefit him in his clerical career.

Although the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives the date of his birth as 925 AD, he was probably bron about 909 or 910.

The young Dunstan was educated at Glastonbury Abbey before joining his uncle Athelm, Archbishop of Canterbury, at the royal court of King Athelstan.

As well as Anglo-Saxon and Latin, Dunstan was fluent in Greek and Hebrew.

Folk tradition of the time marked Glastonbury as the first Christian settlement in Britain, associating it not only with Joseph of Arimathea but Jesus himself. In those pious times it could not therefore fail to be a popular place of Christian pilgrimage. The Abbey was also a reknowned centre of learning with scholars congregating there from as far afield as Ireland.

Originally disinclined to a clerical life, Dunstan was swayed by a skin disease which he feared might be leprosy and took holy orders late in life, in 943 when he was possibly already aged 34 years. Returning to Glastonbury, Dunstan chose a very simple life of manual labour and devotion, building himself a cell beside the Abbey church. He soon earned a reputation for his great craft in the arts of metalworking, whether working as a blacksmith (his symbols are a pair of smith's tongs and a dove) or as a jeweller. His simple and obscure life was not to last long. Shortly after the death of Athelstan (924-939) he was summoned to court as a priest by Athelstan's successor, Edmund I (939-946).

It was while Dunstan lived in his tiny cell against the wall of the church at Glastonbury that 11th century tradition claims he was tempted by the Devil whose nose the saint seized with his blacksmiths' tongs.

Dunstan did not remain at court for long because Edmund soon set him on his rise through the clergy when in 945 he appointed Dunstan as the abbot of Glastonbury. The abbey flourished under his hand, the strict Benedictine rule was insituted, the church buildings enlarged and substantial extensions to the irrigation system on the surrounding Somerset levels after which the county is named undertaken. His efforts at Glastonbury to produce a class of educated clerics contributed much to the growth of monasticism throughout Britain.

As was common practice, with clerics possessing the scant learning in the realm, they were required to take a considerable part in secular affairs. So it was that the able Dunstan became a royal advisor and negotiator for Edmund and his successor Edred (946-955) and played a considerable part in establishing a period of respite from the attacks of the Danes.

Dunstan soon became one of Edmund's chief counsellors. The king, however, dismissed him after malicious accusations were brought against him. Later regtretting his injustice, Edmund made Dusntan Abbot of Glastonbury.

Dunstan fared much worse under the rule of the young King Edwy (955-959). In the year of his accession, the new monarch took offence at the monk's reproach for his moral laxity, confiscating his property and sending him into exile. Dunstan sought refuge at the monastery of Ghent, in Flanders (modern Belgium) but his absence did not last long. Edgar, king of Mercia and Northumbria, shared Dustan's zeal for monasticism and recalled him in 957, and king and cleric together put considerable energy into monastic reform and expansion.

The death of King Edwy in 959 left his brother Edgar king of all England under whom the cleric rose rapidly - in 959 he became bishop of Worcester and London and, archbishop of Canterbury in 961. As archbishop, Dunstan continued his work of encouraging scholarship and monastic settlements.

Edgar's Coronation Service

Although Edgar had chosen Dunstan as Archbishop, the cleric refused to crown him until 973 because of his the king's way of life.

Dustan is said to have overseen every detail of the coronation at Bath. He devised the service to emulate the ceremenoy of consecration of priests with the emphasis on creating the bond between monarch and Church as a sacred act. A skilled jeweller, the archbishop is said to have personally designed the crown used for the ceremony.

Dunstan performed the same service for the coronation of Edward the Martyr (975-978), and later for Edward's half-brother, Ethelred the Unready (978-1016).

This service devised by Dunstan is still used as the basis for contemporary British coronations.

The archbishop continued his secular work as advisor to the monarch until the death of Edgar in 975 and throughout the reign of the infant Edward the Martyr whose election he supported despite the opposition of the boy's step-mother, Elfrida, who favoured her own son Ethelred. On Ethelred's succession after the murder of Edward at Corfe Castle in March 978, however, he retired to canterbury from public life where he concentrated on his teaching.

Dunstan died at Canterbury on May 19th, 988 and was canonised in 1029. His feast day is celebrated on May 19th.

He was buried at Canterbury Cathedral attracting large numbers of pilgrims as the most popular English saint - a position in which he was only eclipsed by the 12th-century martyr, Thomas-a-Becket.

After his death, Dunstan's mortal remains were justly claimed by both Canterbury and Glastonbury.

Dunstan worked as a blacksmith, painter and jeweller with a folk rhyme claiming that;-

St Dunstan, as the story goes,
Once pull'd the devil by the nose
With red-hot tongs, which made him roar,
That he was heard three miles or more.

. . . the tongs and a dove have become St Dunstan's symbol and are featured, for example, in the arms of Tower Hamlets in London, and he has been adopted as the patron saint of goldsmiths. There are also many references to the saint in English literature such as in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Another folk legend connected with the saint has secured the horse-shoe in tradition as a symbol of good fortune - when asked to re-shoe the Devil's horse, the saint nailed a horseshoe to the Devil's own hoof and only released him after he had promised never to enter a place where a horse-shoe hung over the door.

Folklore has it that if the horse-shoe remains upright, it will contain good luck. If it should slip over, the good luck will drain out and woe befall the household.

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King Edgar   of Mercia and Northumberland (957-959) and of England (959-975)

On becomming king of Mercia and Northumberland in 957, Edgar recalled Dunstan (eventually canonised) from his exile imposed by his brother Edwy. After becomming king of all England in 959 and although he appointed Dunstan as Archbishop of Canterbury on the death of Archbishop Odo (958), it is alleged that Dunstan refused to crown Edgar until 973 because he disapproved of his way of life.

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circa 909Birth of the future St Dunstan (-988), Archbishop of Canterbury (961-988)
943St Dunstan takes holy orders, possibly already aged 34 years
At first disinclined to a clerical life, he was swayed by a skin disease which he feared might be leprosy
945St Dunstan is launched on his rise through the clergy when he becomes abbot of Glastonbury
951Dunstan refuses the bishopric of Winchester
953Dunstan refuses the bishopric of Crediton
957Edgar, king of Mercia and Northumberland, summons St Dunstan from exile
(Dunstan had come into conflict with King Edwy and fled to Ghent in Flanders
959Edgar officially succeeds his brother Edwy as king of England
959St Dunstan becomes bishop of Worcester and London
960St Dunstan travels to Rome
960.Sep.21St Dunstan recieves the pallium from Pope John XII
961Dunstan becomes Archbishop of Canterbury (-988)
Although appointed by King Edgar, Dunstan refused to crown him because of his way of life until 973
circa 970Conference of bishops, abbots, and abbesses draw up the Regularis Concordia - a national code of monastic observance in line with continental custom and the Rule of Saint Benedict but the English monasteries were to be integrated into the life of the people rather than confine their influence within the monastery walls
973Coronation of King Edgar at Bath by St Dunstan
The ceremony forms the basis of the modern coronation ceremony
975.Jul.08Death of Edgar, King of England at Winchester.
Edward the Martyr becomes King of England supported by St Dunstan and confirmed by the Witan but opposed by his step-mother, Queen Elfrida
978Disaterous meeting of the Witan at Calne in Wiltshire as floor collapses leaving Archbishop Dunstan standing on a beam while many are motally injured
978.Mar.18Murder of King Edward the Martyr at Corfe Castle (village) on the Isle of Purbeck by his step-mother, Queen Elfrida to make way for her own son Ethelred
988.May.19Death of Dunstan (c.909-), Archbishop of Canterbury (961-) - succeeded by Ethelgar (ASC)
Ethelgar only lived 15 months
1029Canonisation of St Dunstan (909-988), Archbishop of Canterbury (961-988)

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KING EDGAR   (959-975)

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