Dunstan is also a village in Northumberland, and a lake in New Zealand
Dunstan (909–May 19 988) was an Archbishop of Canterbury (961–980) who was later canonized as a saint. He gained fame for the many stories told about his cunning in dealing with the Devil.
He began his career at Glastonbury, becoming abbot in 945. The abbey flourished under his administration, with a substantial extension of the irrigation system on the surrounding Somerset Levels. Following the accession of King Edwy of England, he became less influential and went overseas to Flanders. On his return, in 957, he imported Benedictine customs, becoming bishop of Worcester and London in 959, and in 961 became Archbishop of Canterbury, under King Edgar of England. Having crowned Edgar in 973, he performed the same service for his successor, Edward the Martyr, and later for Ethelred the Unready. The service is still used as the basis for contemporary British coronations. He died in 988 and was canonized in 1029.
He functions as the patron saint of goldsmiths, and himself worked as a blacksmith, painter, and jeweller. English literature contains many references to him, for example in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and in this folk rhyme:
- St Dunstan, as the story goes,
- Once pull'd the devil by the nose
- With red-hot tongs, which made him roar,
- That he was heard three miles or more.
From this the tongs have become a symbol of St Dunstan and are featured in the arms of Tower Hamlets.
Another story relates how Dunstan nailed a horseshoe to the Devil's hoof when he was asked to reshod the Devil's horse. The Devil was only allowed to go once he had promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door. This is claimed as the origin of the lucky horseshoe.
The Church marks his feast day on May 19.
Churches dedicated to St Dunstan
Last updated: 05-14-2005 21:25:26