Maildulf (DNB00)

MAILDULF or MAILDUF (d. 675?) was a Scottish or Irish teacher who gave his name to the town of Malmesbury (‘quod Maildufi urbem nuncupant,’ Beda, Hist. Eccl. v. 18; ‘in Maldubia civitate,’ Jaffé, Mon. Mog. p. 300), and, jointly with Hadrian, claims the honour of having been Aldhelm's master [see Aldhelm]. Bishop Stubbs gives the name in its written Irish form as Maeldubh, which written phonetically is Mailduf. It is a common name among Irish saints. That the teacher of Aldhelm was of Scottish or Irish birth is proved by a letter written to Aldhelm by a Scottish or Irish pupil (‘Scottus ignoti nominis’), who says that he claims common nationality with the holy man who was Aldhelm's teacher (ib. p. 34). William of Malmesbury, whose account of Aldhelm may be accepted in its main outline, says that one Meldum or Meildulf, of Scottish race, a philosopher by erudition, and a monk by profession, first came to the spot now called Malmesbury as a hermit, but the densely wooded region he had chosen for his dwelling, though it offered the advantage of complete retirement, gave him no means of procuring a livelihood. To avoid the risk of starvation he opened a school, and began to teach philosophy and dialectics. But Aldhelm was not remarkable for his attainments in either subject, and this curriculum was probably suggested to William of Malmesbury by his own educational experiences. More probably reading of the holy scriptures, arithmetic, astronomy, Latin, and Greek were the school subjects—in these Aldhelm claimed proficiency (ib. pp. 32 sq.) Mailduf's school must have attained a certain celebrity to secure such a pupil as Aldhelm, who very probably was of royal birth. Pechthelm, afterwards bishop of Whitherne, is mentioned by Bede as for some time a fellow-monk and deacon with Aldhelm (Hist. Eccl. v. 18), and this may have been when Aldhelm was under Mailduf.

William of Malmesbury calls Mailduf's school a monastery, and quotes a bull of privilege from Pope Sergius (Gesta Pontiff. i. 335) in which Mailduf is mentioned as founder of the monastery, and which is accepted as genuine (Jaffé, Reg. Pont. Rom. p. 245, No. 2140). He adds that a little church, traditionally said to have been built by Mailduf, was existing a few years before he wrote (Gesta Pontiff. p. 345), and this may possibly have been attached to Mailduf's school, which was dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul (ib.) When Aldhelm had learned all he could of Mailduf, he is said to have proceeded to Canterbury and studied under Hadrian (Stubbs, Dict. Christian Biog. s. v. ‘Theodore of Tarsus’). Later, it is stated, he returned to Mailduf and took the monastic habit in his community (Gesta Pontiff. p. 333). What were its rules and organisation it is impossible to say. Possibly it approached to the form of society described by Adamnan in his ‘Life of Columba;’ or the organisation may have been still looser and approximated rather to the form of Irish school existing at Glastonbury in the childhood of Dunstan. William of Malmesbury further reports that Mailduf was buried in the great church at Malmesbury, and that his bones were turned out by Warin, the first Norman abbot (ib. p. 421). Leland quotes, besides William of Malmesbury's account in the ‘Gesta Pontificum,’ another story from a history of Malmesbury which he attributes to the same pen. This history is no longer forthcoming, and Leland's quotations do not tally with William's version in the ‘Gesta Pontificum.’ His extract contains an amount of precise detail about Mailduf that renders it very questionable. According to this story he came as a hermit to live near the castle at Bladon or Bladow, called in Saxon Ingelborne Castle, built by Dunwallo Mulmutius not far from the royal residence of Brokenborough, Wiltshire. Mailduf obtained leave to build a hut under the shelter of this castle, and there began his school. The same tract is the authority for the possibly true statement that Mailduf lived for fourteen years after Aldhelm received the tonsure, and died at Winchester during the episcopate of Leutherius (670–6), who conferred the abbacy on Aldhelm after Mailduf's death (Leland, Collectanea, quoted in Dugdale's Monasticon, i. 257). Another suggestion is that Aldhelm received the abbacy before Mailduf's death, after old age had compelled him to retire. The year 675 may be best accepted as that of his death or resignation. His successor, Aldhelm, is said to have been abbot thirty-three years at his death in 709, and to have entered on his office before Leutherius was dead, in 676; while a spurious charter, which may be correctly dated, claims to have been conferred in 675 by Leutherius on Aldhelm as abbot (but cf. Hahn, Boniface und Lull, p. 9, note 1).

[William of Malmesbury's Gesta Pontificum, ed. Hamilton; Jaffé's Monumenta Moguntiniana; Kemble's Codex Diplomaticus, xi; article ‘Mailduf’ in the Dict. of Christian Biog.]

M. B.