Ailred or Aelred, an English Christian saint, was born in Hexham, Northumbria, in 1109.
His father, a married priest, sent him to spend several years at the court of King David I of Scotland. Aelred rose to be Master of the Household before leaving the court to enter a Cistercian monastery at beautiful Rievaulx Abbey, in Yorkshire, in 1133, at the age of twenty-four.
He became the abbot of a new house of his order at Revesby in Lincolnshire in 1142, and later, abbot of Rievaulx itself in 1147. He would spend the remainder of his life in the monastery. Under his administration the size of the abbey rose to some six hundred monks. He also made annual visits to several other Cistercian houses in England and Scotland, with other visits to places as far as Citeaux and Clairvaux. These visits may have compromised his health, for he is recorded as suffering from a very painful, unspecified disease in his later years.
He wrote several influential books on spirituality, among them The Mirror of Charity (perhaps at the request of Bernard of Clairvaux) and Spiritual Friendship (the book he is holding in his hand). He also wrote seven works of history, addressing two 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 a spiritual writer; for many centuries his most famous work was his “Life of Saint Edward, King and Confessor.”
Ailred’s works, private letters and his Life by Walter Daniel, another twelfth-century monk of Rievaulx, have led some scholars to infer from that he was homosexual. For sure he had a very dear friend called Simon, who’s loss he mourned deeply and in beautiful words. (“The only one who would not be astonished to see Aelred living without Simon would be someone who did not know how pleasant it was for us to spend our life on earth together; how great a joy it would have been for us to journey to heaven in each other’s company …. Weep, then, not because Simon has been taken up to heaven, but because Aelred has been left on earth, alone.”)
De spirituali amicitia contains an obituary for Simon.
Ailred died on January 12, 1167, at Rievaulx. He is listed for January 12 in the Roman Martyrology and the calendars of various other churches.
Faber-Castell Watercolour-Pencils “Albrecht Dürer”
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