This short, yet clear declaration, of the actual voyage, has been extended by succeeding writers, who attribute the whole merit to Sighelm, omitting all mention of Athelstan, his co-adjutor in the holy mission. The first member of the subsequent paraphrase of the Saxon Chronicle, by Harris, though unauthorized, is yet necessarily true, as Alfred could not have sent messengers to a shrine, of which he did not know the existence. For the success of the voyage, the safe return, the promotion of Sighelm, and his bequest, the original record gives no authority, although that is the obvious foundation of the story, to which Aserus has no allusion in his life of Alfred.
“In the year 883, Alfred, King of England, hearing that there existed a Christian church in the Indies, dedicated to the memory of St Thomas and St Bartholomew, dispatched one Sighelm, or Sithelm, a favourite ecclesiastic of his court, to carry his royal alms to that distant shrine. Sighelm successfully executed the honourable commission with which he had been entrusted, and returned in safety into England. After his return, he was promoted to the bishoprick of Sherburn, or Shireburn, in Dorsetshire; and it is recorded, that he left at his decease, in the treasury of that church, sundry spices and jewels, which he had brought with him from the Indies.”
Of this voyage, William of Malmsbury makes twice mention; once in the fourth chapter of his second book, De Gestis Regum Anglorum; and secondly, in the second book of his work; entitled, De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum; and in the chapter devoted to the Bishops of Shireburn, Salisbury, and Winchester, both of which are here added, although the only authority for the story is contained in what has been already given from the Saxon Chronicle.
“King Alfred being addicted to giving of alms, confirmed the privileges which his father had granted to the churches, and sent many gifts beyond seas, to Rome, and to St Thomas in India. His messenger in this business was Sighelm, bishop of Sherburn, who, with great prosperity, which is much to be wondered at in this age, penetrated into India; whence he brought on his return, splendid exotic gems, and aromatic liquors, of which the soil of that region is prolific.”
“Sighelm having gone beyond seas, charged with alms from the king, even penetrated, with wonderful prosperity, to Saint Thomas in India, a thing much to be admired in this age; and brought thence, on his return, certain foreign kinds of precious stones which abound in that region; some of which are yet to be seen in the monuments of his church.”