Celtic and Old English Saints          10 February

* St. Caedmon, Father of English Poetry
* St. Trumwin of Abercorn
* St. Merwinna of Romsey
* St. Erluph of Werden

St. Caedmon
Died 670. Saint Bede (f.d. May 25) recorded the life of Caedmon, the
cowherd of Whitby Abbey, who though rough and untutored, by God's power,
in his later years broke into song and became the father of English
poetry. Some say he was quite old when he first exercised his gift. The
legend is that for years he was so ashamed of his inability, on account
of his shyness, to take his turn in singing on festive occasions that he
would steal away and hide himself. 'Wherefore, being sometimes at
feasts, when all agreed for glee's sake to sing in turn, he no sooner
saw the harp come towards him than he rose from the board and turned

One night, however, when he had left the feast and had taken refuge in
the stable, he heard a voice saying: 'Sing, Caedmon. Sing some song to
Me.' Caedmon stammered in reply: 'I cannot sing.' 'But you shall sing,'
replied the voice. 'What shall I sing?' Caedmon asked in wonder. The
voice answered: 'Sing the beginning of created things.' And Caedmon, in
that moment, attempting to sing, found his stammering tongue had been

In the morning he recalled the words of his song and, adding other
verses to it, appeared before the Abbess Hilda (f.d. November 17), to
whom he related his strange story. He sang to her the song he had sung
in the night, and she and all who heard were amazed, and agreed 'that
heavenly grace had been conferred upon him by the Lord.'

He became a lay-brother and, still in the great abbey of Whitby, was
taught by his fellow monks the truths of the Bible; these he turned into
poetry 'so sweet to the ear that his teachers became his hearers.' 'He
sang,' says Bede, 'of the creation of the world, the origin of man, and
the history of Israel, of the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of
Christ, and the teaching of the Apostles.' This first Anglo-Saxon writer
of religious poetry covered with his paraphrases the whole field of
Scripture, and though 'others after him strove to compose religious
poems, none could vie with him, for he learned the art of poetry not
from men, but from God.'

Saxon religious verse. In the nineteenth century the broken pieces of
the Ruthwell Cross were dug up and put together. The cross, which is
nearly eighteen feet high, was found to have, beside the magnificent
imagery, a long inscription in Latin and Runic letters, which we now
know as The Dream of the Holy Rood. On the head of the cross are the
words, "Caedmon made me", which is similar to "Caedmon made this song",
which appears in the earliest manuscripts. It seems likely that the most
famous of all Anglo Saxon poems was composed by S.Caedmon.

He is said to have died in holiness and perfect charity to all, after
showing that he knew his life was at an end, although he was not
seriously ill. He asked to be taken to the infirmary and to receive
Communion. With the Host in his hand he looked round on his brother
monks and asked if any bore him a grudge or had anything against him.
When they answered that none of them had, he said, "I too have a mind at
peace with all God's servants," made his Communion, signed himself with
the Cross, lay down and went to sleep, never to wake again in this

Caedmon's poetry was a remarkable instance of the power of the Bible to
stimulate the imagination and awaken natural genius. Thus, Caedmon
brought to the common people the energy and realism of the Scriptures,
which, entering deeply into the life of the nation, have never ceased
through all the centuries to invigorate and inspire the culture of the
English-speaking world. Though only nine lines of one of his hymns,
"Dream of the Road," said to have been composed in a dream, survives, he
is called the 'Father of English Sacred Poetry.' His feast is still
celebrated at Whitby (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopaedia, Farmer,

"Rood and Ruthwell:
The Poem and the Cross"

The Dream of the Rood
A Verse Translation by Douglas B. Killings:

The Dream of the Rood, In Anglo-Saxon:


Poetry attributed to St. Caedmon:

St. Trumwin (Trumma) of Abercorn, Bishop
Died c. 700. Saint Bede tells us that, in 681, Saint Trumwin was
appointed bishop over the southern Picts by Saint Theodore (f.d.
September 19) and King Egfrid. Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury had
divided the Northumbrian diocese governed by Saint Wilfrid (f.d.October
12) into three, establishing the sees of Deira, Bernica, and Lindsey.
Three years later, two more diocese were created for Hexham and on the
Firth of Forth to govern the Pictish lands recently
conquered. This last became the seat for Trumwin, who organised his see
at the monastery of Abercorn and later founded a monastery at Lothian on
the Firth of Forth. Trumwin also accompanied Theodore to Farne to
persuade Saint Cuthbert (f.d. March 20) to be consecrated bishop of
Hexham. In 685, King Egfrid was killed by the Picts in the disastrous
battle of Nechtansmere and Saint Trumwin and all his monks had to flee
south when the English were ousted. He went to Whitby
Abbey, where he was welcomed by Abbess Saint Elfleda (f.d. February 8).
There he lived out his last days in "austerity to the benefit of many
others beside himself" (Bede). Trumwin's relics were translated during
the 12th century with those of King Oswy and Saint Elfleda
(Benedictines, Coulson, Farmer).

St. Merwinna, Abbess of Romsey, England
Died c. 970; feast of translation is October 23. Merewenna was the first
abbess of Rumsey convent in Hampshire, when it had been restored under
King Edward the Peaceful (or Edgar?) refounded it in 967. Under her
direction the monastery prospered and attracted princesses, including
Saint Elfleda by whom she lays in the abbey church (Benedictines,

St. Erluph of Werden, Bishop & Martyr
Died 830. Saint Erluph was one of ten bishops of Verden, Germany, who
were said to be of Irish extraction. Erluph came to Germany as a
missionary and became the third bishop of Verden, succeeding Saint Tanco
(f.d. February 16). Like his predecessor, he was killed by a pagan mob.
In 1630, his relics were discovered with those of other bishops during
the repair of the old cathedral. The remains were encased in a casket
and placed in back of the high altar until Bishop Francis William fled
with them in 1659 to Regensburg in the wake of Swedish invaders
(Benedictines, D'Arcy, Fitzpatrick, Kenney, O'Hanlon).


Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

D'Arcy, M. R. (1974). The Saints of Ireland. Saint Paul, Minnesota:
Irish American Cultural Institute. [This is probably the most
useful book to choose to own on the Irish saints. The author
provides a great deal of historical context in which to place the
lives of the saints.]

Delaney, J. J. (1983). Pocket Dictionary of Saints.
New York: Doubleday Image.

Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fitzpatrick, B. (1927). Ireland and the Foundations of Europe.
New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

Gill, F. C. (1958). The Glorious Company: Lives of Great
Christians for Daily Devotion, vol. I. London:
Epworth Press.

Kenney, J. F. (1929). Sources for Early History of Ireland,
vol.1, Ecclesiastical. New York: Columbia University Press.

O'Hanlon, J. (1875). Lives of Irish Saints, 10 vol. Dublin.

For All the Saints:

An Alphabetical Index of the Saints of the West

These Lives are archived at:


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