In the year 705, Aldhelm, who had founded the monastery at Malmesbury 33 years previously, left to become the first Bishop of Sherborne. To mark the 1300th anniversary of this event, celebrations have been taking place in both towns.
On Sunday May 22nd, a service took place in the Abbey attended by the Bishops of Bristol and Ramsbury, and the Archdeacons of Malmesbury and Wilts. The service included three of Aldhelm's riddles, and the first performance of a hymn in honour of the saint written by Rosalind Brown. Both bishops took part in a question and answer session, while Bishop Mike Hill of Bristol preached on the lessons we can learn from the saint's life.
On Wednesday 25th, which was St. Aldhelm's Day, the regular 10.30 Holy Communion Service in the Abbey included a talk by local expert John Bowen. On Saturday 28th there was the annual St. Aldhelm Fair at the Market Cross, at which many organisations within the town had stalls. Then at 5:00 pm starting in the Abbey there was a procession to the various places linked with the saint, his Well on Gloucester Street, the Mead close to the river crossing where he used to baptise converts, and the Roman Catholic Church dedicated to him in Cross Hayes, where Father George O'Sullivan read the Gospel. The procession then proceeded back to Birdcage Walk, where Rt Rev Tim Thornton, Bishop of Sherborne, preached from the steps which are in the approximate position of the pulpit of St. Paul's Church, of which only the steeple survives. The final part of the service, a celebration of Holy Communion, took place in the Abbey.
This event was the start of a pilgrimage that finished at St. Aldhelm's Head on the Dorset coast, where a new altar in the Chapel there was dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. For more details of the Pilgrimage, visit www.thealdhelmway.org.uk.