Aelred of Rievaulx

Aelred of Rievaulx bigraphy, stories - English writer, abbot, and saint

Aelred of Rievaulx : biography

1110 – 12 January 1167

Aelred (1110 – 12 January 1167), also Aelred, Ælred, Æthelred, etc., was an English writer, abbot of Rievaulx (from 1147 until his death), and saint.


Aelred was one of three sons of Eilaf, priest of St Andrew’s at Hexham and himself a son of Eilaf, treasurer of Durham.Bell, "Ailred of Rievaulx (1110–1167)" He was born in Hexham, Northumbria, in 1110.Thurston, Herbert. "St. Ælred." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 20 September 2012

Aelred spent several years at the court of King David I of Scotland, rising to the rank of Master of the Household before leaving the court at age twenty-four (in 1134) to enter the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx in Yorkshire. He may have been partially educated by Lawrence of Durham, who sent him a hagiography of Saint Brigid. Aelred became the abbot of a new house of his order at Revesby in Lincolnshire in 1142The Lives of the Saints, Rev. S. Baring-Gould, Volume 1, Page 178, Edinburgh: John Grant, 1914 and in 1147 was elected abbot of Rievaulx itself, where he spent the remainder of his life. Under his administration, the abbey is said to have grown to some hundred monks and four hundred lay brothers.Walter Daniel, Vita Ailredi Abbatis Rievall’, Although there is no record of the fact, he probably made annual visitations to Rievaulx’s daughterhouses in England and Scotland and to the French abbeys of Cîteaux and Clairvaux.

Aelred wrote several influential books on spirituality, among them Speculum caritatis ("The Mirror of Charity," reportedly written at the request of Bernard of Clairvaux) and De spiritali amicitia ("On Spiritual Friendship").On the use of spiritali,’" instead of spirituali, see Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship, transl. by L. Braceland (2010), 25. He also wrote seven works of history, addressing three of them to Henry II of England, advising him how to be a good king and declaring him to be the true descendent of Anglo-Saxon kings. Until the twentieth century, Aelred was generally known as a historian rather than as a spiritual writer; for many centuries his most famous work was his Life of Saint Edward, King and Confessor.

Aelred died on January 12, 1167, at Rievaulx. He is thought to have suffered from the stone (hence his patronage) and arthritis in his later years.Walter Daniel, "Vita Aelredi" He is listed for January 12 in the Roman Martyrology and the calendars of various churches. He was canonized in 1191.

Primary sources

  • Aelred of Rievaulx, ‘"Opera." Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 1, 2A, 2B, 2D. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 1971, 1983, 2001, 2005.
  • Walter Daniel, Vita Ailredi Abbatis Rievall. Ed. and transl. Maurice Powicke (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950). [Translation reprinted with a new introduction as: The Life of Aelred of Rievaulx, And the Letter to Maurice. Translated by FM Powicke and Jane Patricia Freeland; Introduction by Marsha Dutton. Cistercian Fathers series no. 57, (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1994.)]
  • Aelred of Rievaulx, Treatises and Pastoral Prayer, Cistercian Fathers series 2 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1971).
  • Aelred of Rievaulx, Dialogue on the Soul, trans. C. H. Talbot, Cistercian Father series 22 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1981).
  • Aelred of Rievaulx, Vita Niniani, translated by Winifred MacQueen, in John MacQueen, St. Nynia, (Edinburgh: Polygon, 1990) [reprinted as (Edinburgh: John Donald, 2005)]
  • Aelred of Rievaulx, Mirror of Charity, trans. Elizabeth Connor, Cistercian Fathers series 17 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1990).
  • Aelred of Rievaulx, The life of Saint Edward, king and confessor, translated by Jerome Bertram, (Guildford: St. Edward’s Press, 1990) [reprinted at Southampton: Saint Austin Press, 1997]
  • Aelred of Rievaulx, The Liturgical Sermons I: The First Clairvaux Collection, Advent—All Saints, Translated by Theodore Berkeley . Sermons 1-28, Advent – All Saints. Cistercian Fathers series no. 58, (Kalamazoo : Cistercian Publications, 2001.)
  • Aelred of Rievaulx, A letter to my sister, translated from the Latin and Middle English versions and edited by Geoffrey Webb and Adrian Walker, (London: Saint Austin Press, 2001) [first published 1957]
  • Aelred of Rievaulx, On Jesus at twelve years old, translated from the Latin by Geoffrey Wren and Adrian Walker, (London: Saint Austin Press, 2001)
  • Aelred of Rievaulx, The Historical Works, trans. Jane Patricia Freeland, ed. Marsha L. Dutton, Cistercian Fathers series 56 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 2005).
  • Aelred of Rievaulx, The Lives of the Northern Saints, trans. Jane Patricia Freeland, ed. Marsha L. Dutton, Cistercian Fathers series 71 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 2006).
  • Aelred of Rievaulx, For Your Own People: Aelred of Rievaulx’s Pastoral Prayer, trans. Mark Del Cogliano, crit. ed. Marsha L. Dutton, Cistercian Fathers series 73 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 2008). [Translation of Oratio Pastoralis]
  • Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship, trans. Lawarence Braceland, ed. Marsha L. Dutton, Cistercian Fathers series 5 (Collegeville: Cistercian Publications, 2010).