Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Athelm

ATHELM (d. 923), archbishop of Canterbury, is said by William of Malmesbury (Gesta Reg. ii. 184) to have been a monk of Glastonbury. This statement has been disputed (Anglia Sacra, i. 556), but there is no conclusive evidence against it. In 909 Athelm was made the first bishop of Wells. Since 705 there had been two West-Saxon sees, at Winchester and at Sherborne [see Aldhelm]. William of Malmesbury (Gesta Reg. ii. 129) says that Pope Formosus sent a letter to King Edward, excommunicating him and his subjects, because the West-Saxon country had been left wathout a bishop for seven years; that the king held a synod of great men, who divided the land into five instead of two dioceses, and chose five new bishops; and that, in 909, Archbishop Plegmund consecrated seven bishops in one day, one of these being Athelm to the church of Wells, one of the new dioceses. The story is full of anachronism, for Formosus died in 896, and the names of some of the bishops suggest other difficulties. The division of the dioceses, the creation of the see of Wells, and the consecration of Athelm may, however, be accepted. In 914 Athelm was made archbishop of Canterbury, and obtained the pall from John X. Athelm was the brother of Heorstan, the father of Dunstan. He is said to have been Dunstan's patron, but he died about the time of the birth of that saint. Athelm is said by Florence of Worcester to have crowned Æthelstan. This, however, is a mistake, for he died 8 Jan. 923, and was succeeded by Wulflhelm, who must have officiated at the coronation, which took place the next year.

[William of Malmesbury, Gesta Reg. ii. (Eng. Hist. See.); Gesta Pontiff, i. (Rolls Ser.); Florence of Worcester; Wharton, Anglia Sacra, i.; Adelard, Vita Dunstani; Stubbs, Reg. Sac. Anglic, p. 13, note.]

W. H.