The beams had all been cut to size except one which was found to be too short. Aldhelm, knowing how expensive it would be to obtain another beam came and prayed, at the same time stretching the beam. When measured, it was found to be the same length as the others. This beam was subsequently spared by fire which destroyed the monastery on two occasions.
As a mediaeval saint, Aldhelm is said to have wrought many miracles. When he was building St Mary's church at Malmesbury, the workmen prepared to roof it using as supports several large beams which had been supplied at great cost and brought from a long distance. The beams had all been cut to size except one which was found to be too short. Aldhelm, knowing how expensive it would be to obtain another beam came and prayed, at the same time stretching the beam. When measured, it was found to be the same length as the others. This beam was subsequently spared by fire which destroyed the monastery on two occasions.
Aldhelm is said to have gone on a journey to Rome to visit the Pope, in order to bring back a papal bull to Wessex. While staying in Wareham from where he was to sail, waiting for the wind to change for the voyage, he had a church built so that he could pray to God for a safe journey. 500 years later William of Malmesbury wrote that the masonry of this church was still standing. The roof, however, was gone, all but a small piece which projected over the altar and protected it from being defiled by birds. However fiercely the weather raged, not even a drop of water ever fell within the walls of the church.
On one occasion in Rome, Aldhelm had finished saying Mass. He pulled off his chasuble and tossed it behind him thinking that a server would, as usual, be on hand to catch it. The server was elsewhere. Immediately a shaft of sunlight struck sharp and straight through a window and, placing itself under the chasuble, held it suspended some distance from the ground.
During this stay in Rome the miracle of the babe occurred. A baby was born in the house of a chamberlain of the pope. The scandal got about that the mother of the baby was a nun and the father, the pope himself. To put a stop to the story Aldhelm asked for the baby, who was then nine days old, to be brought to him. He publicly baptised the baby, then asked it whether the common talk of the pope being its father, was true. The infant replied loudly and clearly that the pope was holy and unspotted.
Aldhelm returned to Wessex with his papal bull and with all sorts of merchandise, among which was an altar slab of splendid white marble, eighteen inches thick, four foot long and three foot wide, with crosses carved all round the edge. It was carried by a camel as far as the Alps. Here the camel fell under the weight. The crash of the fall smashed both the camel and the altar slab. The saint stretched out his hand in blessing and repaired both the smashed camel and the altar slab.
In the year 705 Aldhelm was chosen to be Bishop of Sherborne and went to Canterbury to be consecrated by the Archbishop. While he was there he heard that some ships from Gaul had put in at Dover and he went there to see if the mariners from Gaul had brought anything which might be of use in his church. Aldhelm noticed a bible among their wares and tried to bargain for it with the mariners. However, the vendors were not prepared to haggle and they beat him off and sailed a little way from the shore. Straightaway, a hurricane arose. The sailors realised that this was their punishment for the way in which they had treated Aldhelm. They cried to him for help and promised that they would never behave in such a way again. The Bishop readily forgave them and stilled the storm with the sign of the cross. The sailors begged Aldhelm to take the book for nothing but he insisted on giving them a price halfway between what they had originally asked and what he had offered to give.
The story goes that when the saint was dead he appeared in a vision to the Bishop of Worcester telling him of his death and commanding him to come to Doulting where his body lay. The bishop came at once and made arrangements for the body to be carried from Doulting back to Malmesbury. The march took seven days. At each nightly stopping place a cross was set up.
These then are some of the miracles of St Aldhelm. The serious scholar can learn more about the saint from his writings, many of which remain today. But these popular stories show that the saint is remembered and revered for his holiness and for his faithfulness in preaching the Christian gospel in Wessex nearly four hundred years before the Norman conquest.
For more information about St Aldhelm's life click here
A window on the north side of St Aldhelm's church depicts two legends. On the left St Aldhelm is preaching. His staff which he is holding has taken root and is already growing as an ash tree, the 'Bishop's Tree'. On the right, the king offers his staff to Aldhelm, promising him land for a church as far as he can throw it. Hence, perhaps, 'Bishop's Throw'.
As a mediaeval saint, Aldhelm is said to have wrought many miracles. When he was building St Mary's church at Malmesbury, the workmen prepared to roof it using as supports several large beams which had been supplied at great cost and brought from a long distance.