Donald Attwater
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Donald Attwater
Donald Attwater by Eric Gill, 1929, private collection.

Donald Attwater (24 December 1892-February 1977) was a British Catholic author, editor and translator, and a visiting lecturer at the University of Notre Dame.


Attwater was born in Essex, England, on 24 December 1892. His parents were Methodists who became Anglicans while Attwater was a child. He himself became a Catholic at the age of 18. He studied Law but did not earn a degree.[1]

He served in the Sinai and Palestine campaign during the First World War, developing an interest in Eastern Christianity while in the Middle East. After the war he lived for a time on Caldey Island, undergoing the influence of the monks of Caldey Abbey.[2] He also became a friend and admirer of Eric Gill. Throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s he was a frequent contributor to the Catholic press in both Britain and America, and a prolific author of books on Christian themes.

In 1936 he was one of the founders of the Catholic peace movement Pax, which opposed the invasion of Abyssinia by Fascist Italy.[3]

Attwater was married to Rachel Attwater of South Wales, a fellow historian and published author on Catholic saints in the Orient.[4] He died in Storrington, Sussex, in February 1977.[5]


As author
  • Father Ignatius of Llanthony: A Victorian (1931)
  • The Catholic Church in Modern Wales (1935)
  • The Dissident Eastern Churches (1937)
  • The White Fathers in Africa (1937)
  • The Golden Book of Eastern Saints (1938)
  • Life of St. John Chrysostom (1939)
  • Eastern Catholic Worship (1945)
  • The Christian Church of the East (1947)
  • Saints Westward (1953)
  • A Dictionary of Mary (1956)
  • Martyrs, from St. Stephen to John Tung (1957)
  • Saints of the East (1963)
  • Dictionary of the Popes (1965)
  • The Cell of Good Living (1969)
As translator
  • Vladimir Solovyov, God, Man, and the Church
  • Nikolai Berdyaev, The End of Our Time (1933)
  • Nikolai Berdyaev, Christianity and Class War (1933)
  • Nikolai Berdyaev, Dostoievsky: An Interpretation (1934)
  • Charles de Foucauld, Memories of Charles de Foucauld: Explorer and Hermit, Seen in His Letters, edited by Georges Gorrée (1938)
  • Hippolyte Delehaye, The Legends of the Saints (1962)
  • Yves Congar, Lay People in the Church (1963)
  • Jean Daniélou, Primitive Christian Symbols (1964)
  • Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God (1974)
  • An Anthology of Mysticism, edited by Paul de Jaegher (1977)
As editor
  • A Catholic Encyclopedic Dictionary (1931)
  • Dictionary of Saints (1938); later Penguin Dictionary of Saints
  • Butler's Lives of the Saints (4 vols., 1956), a revision of Herbert Thurston's edition.
  • Modern Christian Revolutionaries (1971)


  1. ^ Catherine Rachel John, "Donald Attwater 1892 - 1997: A Man for His Time and Ours", The Chesterton Review, 29:4 (2003), p. 519.
  2. ^ Karen Jankulak, "Present and Yet Absent: The Cult of St Samson of Dol in Wales", in St Samson of Dol and the Earliest History of Brittany, Cornwall and Wales, edited by Lynette Olson (Boydell & Brewer, 2017), p. 166
  3. ^ Tom Villis, British Catholics and Fascism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), pp. 199-200.
  4. ^ Attwater, Rachel (1963). Adam Schall: A Jesuit in the Court of China, 1592-1666. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company.
  5. ^ Obituary in The Catholic Historical Review, 63:3 (1977), p. 497.

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