Saint Donstan, an English prelate and statesman, born near Glastonbury, Somersetshire, in 925, died May 19, 988. Under the patronage of his uncle, the archbishop of Canterbury, he passed some years at the court of Athelstan; but the jealousy of courtiers depriving him of the king's favor, he retired to Winchester, and devoted himself to a monastic life. He built a cell against the wall of Glastonbury church, and there passed his time in prayer, fasting, and manual labor, transcribing manuscripts, painting, and fashioning utensils of metal for the use of the altar. About 942 he became abbot of the then ruined monastery of Glastonbury, and received from King Edmund authority to restore it at the royal charge. In the succeeding reign of Edred his power became almost absolute in the national councils. He restored the strictness of ecclesiastical discipline, and brought the Benedictines into England, but on the accession of Edwy was banished from the kingdom. His share in the story of Edwy and Elgiva has brought him into odium with all believers in that much discussed romance, the facts of which are yet unsettled.
Edgar recalled the exiled abbot, doubled his honors, made him bishop of the united sees of Worcester and London, and in 959 advanced him to the primacy as archbishop of Canterbury. The prelate ruled both the monarch and the kingdom. He meted out justice with a stern hand, built up the power of the church, placed Benedictines in the livings of the disorderly secular clergy, and forced the king to do a seven years' penance for a sin of licentiousness. On Edgar's death his influence raised Edward to the throne, to the exclusion of a younger son, Ethelred; but on the accession of the latter in 978 his power was broken, and he retired to Canterbury, and there died. Of the writings attributed to him, only the " Concord of Monastic Rule" is known to be authentic. His life, edited by the Rev. J. R. Green, master of the rolls, was published in London in 1872.