St Dunstan of Canterbury (909-88) was the central figure in the development of English church and society after the death of King Alfred. The author traces Dunstan’s life beginning with his education at the great monastery of Glastonbury, of which he became abbot. He was a central figure at the court of the kings of Wessex but was banished, partly because of his hostility to King Edwy’s mistresses, and went into exile in Flanders. On the succession of Edgar to the throne, Dunstan was called back to England and appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. During the twenty eight years of his primacy he carried out one of the major developments of the century, the reformation of the monasteries. The author examines him not merely as a prelate and royal advisor, but considers other aspects of his life: his skill as a craftsman, which caused him to be adopted as the patron saint of goldsmiths; his works as calligrapher and artist, some of which survive to this day; the coronation service which he drew up which still lies at the heart of this service for English monarchs; his celebrated musical skills; and above all, the sanctity of his name and the fame of his miracles, which have kept Dunstan’s memory alive.
Douglas Dales’ re-examination of the life and times of Dunstan sets his achievements against the social and religious background of his day, at a time when new forces were emerging that would shape the future of England and the English Church for centuries to come.