(c. 1095—1159) abbot of Melrose

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(c.1100–60), Cistercian abbot of Melrose. Grandson of the Northumbrian patriot Waldef and son of Simon, earl of Huntingdon, after whose death his mother Maud married David I, king of Scotland, Waldef was brought up with Ailred at the Scottish court. There he could have followed the life of a court cleric; instead, he became an Austin canon at Nostell (Yorks.) c.1130. In 1134 he was chosen as prior of Kirkham, recently founded, like Rievaulx, by Walter Espec. In 1140 Waldef was chosen by the canons of York as archbishop in succession to Thurstan, but King Stephen quashed the election because of Waldef's known Scottish sympathies. Strongly attracted to Cistercian ideals, Waldef tried to unite his community of Kirkham en bloc with Rievaulx, but met with effective opposition. The plan was not accepted; so Waldef became a Cistercian at Waldron (Beds.). The canons put every obstacle in his way; he also found the life very austere. But he persevered as a Cistercian and moved to Rievaulx, where Ailred had been elected abbot in 1148. In 1149 Waldef became abbot of Melrose, in succession to a man of ungovernable temper. He won his community by humility, simplicity, and kindness, preferring, with Maieul of Cluny, to be damned for excessive mercy rather than for excessive justice. With the help of David he founded monasteries at Cultram and Kinross.

In 1159 he was elected bishop of St Andrews, but refused the office because he realized that death was near. He was buried in the chapter house at Melrose. In 1207 his body was found to be incorrupt and was translated. In 1240 it was again translated, but this time it was no longer incorrupt. Waldef was never formally canonized but a popular cult continued until the Reformation. During his life many wonders had been recounted of him: Eucharistic visions of Christ in the form appropriate to the feasts of Christmas, Passiontide, and the Resurrection; visions of Heaven and Hell; miracles of multiplying food. Like other Cistercians such as Ailred and Robert of Newminster, Waldef was more attractive in character than many monastic reformers. Feast: 3 August.

From The Oxford Dictionary of Saints in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Christianity.

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