Edmund of Abingdon’s Dream Job

How a vision led Edmund of Abingdon to elevate the role of Medieval teacher to saintly levels.

Saint Edmund of Abingdon bringing about the reconciliation of Gilbert Marshal and Henry III, from Matthew Paris’ Historia Anglorum, 1250s. © British Library Board/Bridgeman Images.

It was the early 1200s, and a young university lecturer had fallen asleep after a hard day’s teaching. As he slept the young man, whose name was Edmund, had a dream in which his late mother appeared before him. She scrutinised the notes and drawings he had been working on and asked him: ‘Son, what are those shapes you’re studying so earnestly?’ Edmund – probably more than a little startled – explained that he was planning a lecture for his students, and these were diagrams he was using to illustrate geometric figures. His mother was not impressed. Seizing his hand, she traced her own diagram on his palm: three circles, within which she wrote the words ‘Father, Son, Holy Spirit’. ‘Those are the figures you should be studying!’, she said, and vanished.

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