THE coronation of Queen Elizabeth II will be celebrated throughout the country next month but few know that the words for the service have a Somerset connection.
St Dunstan, abbot at Glastonbury Abbey in the 10thcentury, officiated at the coronation of King Edgar and the wording he devised is still used today.
Saturday May 19 is St Dunstan’s annual feast day and to mark the occasion harpist John Dalton will be appearing at the Abbey as St Dunstan.
Julie Hayes, education co-ordinator, said St Dunstan was born in Baltonsborough in approximately 909 and took Holy Orders in 943 returning to Glastonbury to live as a hermit after working in King Athelstan’s court.
“He built a small cell next to the old church of St. Mary, playing his harp, working in the Scriptorium, studying and practising his craftsmanship.
“This is when it is said that the devil appeared to Dunstan, in the guise of a woman. Dunstan grasped the woman by the nose using a pair tongs, and she transformed into the devil and disappeared.
“He worked as a Silversmith and became famed as a musician, metalworker and illuminator, “she said.
King Edmund summoned Dunstan to his court and made him a minister but he became a victim of court jealousy.
Julie said: “As King Edmund was preparing to send Dunstan away it is written that…
... the king rode out to hunt the stag in Mendip Forest. He became separated from his attendants and followed a stag at great speed in the direction of the Cheddar cliffs. The stag rushed blindly over the precipice and was followed by the hounds. Eadmund endeavoured vainly to stop his horse; then, seeing death to be imminent, he remembered his harsh treatment of St Dunstan and promised to make amends if his life was spared. At that moment his horse was stopped on the very edge of the cliff. Giving thanks to God, he returned forthwith to his palace, called for St. Dunstan and bade him follow, then rode straight to Glastonbury. Entering the church, the king first knelt in prayer before the altar, then, taking St. Dunstan by the hand, he gave him the kiss of peace, led him to the abbot's throne and, seating him thereon, and promised him all assistance in restoring Divine worship and regular observance.
(‘B’ – anonymous biographer of Dunstan).”
As Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey he established the Benedictine Rule and created many monastic buildings.
Julie said: “In 960, Dunstan became Archbishop of Canterbury and journeyed to Rome to collect his pallium from the Pope.
“Dunstan’s high point was when he officiated at the coronation of King Edgar. The coronation ceremony was devised and written by Dunstan and still forms the basis of the present day coronation ceremony.
“On the 19thMay in 988, Mass was celebrated in Dunstan’s presence. He received Extreme Unction and the Viaticum, and then died.”
He was canonized in 1029 and it was ordered that his Feast Day be kept solemnly throughout England.
St Dunstan is the patron saint of goldsmiths and silversmiths, which is why the hallmarking date ran from May 19 - St. Dunstan’s Feast Day - until May 18 the following year for centuries. This was discontinued in 1975.
Mr Dalton, who will be appearing at various times during the middle of the day on Saturday at the Abbey, is also holding a concert to mark the day at 7.30pm on May 19.
It will feature The Hildegard Ensemble Phillipa Chapman, soprano John Dalton , Harp, and Maxine Ridout- Prime at the United Reform Church in Glastonbury High Street. Tickets cost £4 and are available on the door.