The Legend of
St. Dunstan & the Devil
by David Nash Ford
S T. D U N S T A N
& T H E D E V I L
Metalworking Saint wins Through
There are many legends told of St. Dunstan, ecclesiastical magnate, advisor of kings and minister to the poor in 10th century England. Stories about his battles with the Devil may be allegorical allusions to his conversion to Christianity by St. Alphege, for he was rumoured to have previously been an occultists dabbling in black magic!
Dunstan was a talented metalworker and the best known of such stories relates to the time he loved to spend in his forge at Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset (or possibly at Mayfield in Sussex). He was, at this time, having great success in his spreading of the gospels around the south of England, to the increasing annoyance of Old Nick. So one day, the Devil disguised himself as a beautiful young woman and visited Dunstan in his forge. As a girl, he laughed and joked with the saint and used all his charms in an attempt to seduce him; but Dunstan did not even look up from his blacksmithing. Eventually, the Devil's prancing around the room revealed his hooves beneath the billowing skirts. Unmasked, Old Nick was no match for St. Dunstan who calmly took a large pair of red-hot tongs from the blazing fire and clamped them hard on the Devil's nose. His screams could be heard from three miles away as his wings unfurled and he shot into the sky in uncontrollable agony.
Sussex and Kentish folk will tell you that the Devil, espying the waters at Tunbridge Wells, swooped down and thrust his nose deep beneath them. To this day the spring-water is red and tastes of sulphur. While the convent at Mayfield, built upon the site of his Archiepiscopal Palace, still displays the very tongs used by St. Dunstan in this incident (though the unimaginative will tell you they date from the 13th century).