Aelred of Rievaulx


Aelred of Rievaulx : biography

1110 – 12 January 1167


For his efforts in writing and administration Aelred has been called by David Knowles the "St. Bernard of the North." Knowles, a historian of monasticism in England, also described him as "a singularly attractive figure … . No other English monk of the twelfth century so lingers in the memory."Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, 3rd edition. New York:Penguin Books, 1995. ISBN 0-14-051312-4.

Extant works by Aelred include:

Histories and biographies
  • Vita Davidis Scotorum regis ("Life of David, King of the Scots"), written c.1153.
  • Genealogia regum Anglorum ("Genealogy of the Kings of the English"), written 1153–54.
  • Relatio de standardo ("On the Account of the Standard"), also De bello standardii ("On the Battle of the Standard"), 1153–54.
  • Vita S. Eduardi, regis et confessoris "The Life of Saint Edward, King and Confessor," 1161–63.
  • Vita S. Niniani ("The Life of Saint Ninian"), 1154–60.
  • De miraculis Hagustaldensis ecclesiae ("On the Miracles of the Church of Hexham"), ca. 1155.
  • De quodam miraculo miraculi", also known as "[De Sanctimoniali de Wattun |De sanctimoniali de Wattun]" ("A Certain Wonderful Miracle" or "The Nun of Watton"), c.1160
Spiritual treatises
  • Speculum caritatis ("The Mirror of Charity"), ca. 1142.
  • De Iesu puero duodenni ("Jesus as a Boy of Twelve"), 1160-62.
  • De spiritali amicitia ("Spiritual Friendship"), 1164-67.
  • De institutione inclusarum ("The Formation of Anchoresses"), 1160–62.
  • Oratio pastoralis ("Pastoral Prayer"), c.1163–67.
  • De anima ("On the Soul"), c.1164-67.

Many sermons, including "Homeliae de oneribus propheticis Isaiae" (‘Homilies on the Prophetic Burdens of Isaiah").

All of Aelred’s works have appeared in translation, most in English, and all in French.


A high school named after St. Aelred (the more modern spelling of his name) in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside in the United Kingdom closed in 2011, and there is a primary school in York. Formerly there was also a high school on Gleniffer Road in Glenburn, Paisley, named after St Aelred.

Issues of sexuality

Aelred’s work, private letters, and his Life by Walter Daniel, another twelfth-century monk of Rievaulx, have led historians, such as John Boswell of Yale University and Brian Patrick McGuire of Roskilde University in Denmark, to suggest that he was homosexual.Sommerfeldt 2005, pp. 8-9; See also Boswell 1980, McGuire 1994, and Roden 2002. All of his works, nevertheless, encourage virginity among the unmarried and chastity in marriage and widowhood and warn against any sexual activity outside of marriage; in all his works in later life he treats of extra-marital sexual relationships as forbidden and condemns "unnatural relations" as a rejection of charity and the law of God. He criticized the absence of pastoral care for a young nun who experienced rape, pregnancy, beating, and a miraculous delivery in the Gilbertine community of Watton.

Several gay-friendly organizations have adopted Aelred as their patron saint, such as Integrity in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, National Anglican Catholic Church in the northeast United States, and the Order of St. Aelred.