The Full Wiki

Swithun: Wikis

Advertisements
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Saint Swithun
Statue of Saint Swithun in the Stavanger Cathedral
Bishop
Born c. 800, possibly Hampshire
Died 2 July 862, Winchester, Hampshire
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church; Anglican Communion
Major shrine Winchester Cathedral. Parts survive in cathedral museum. Also modern replacement shrine.
Feast 15 July
Attributes bishop holding a bridge, broken eggs at his feet
Patronage Hampshire; Winchester; Southwark; the weather

Saint Swithun or Swithin (Old English: Swīþhūn; died c. 862) was an Anglo-Saxon bishop of Winchester whose historical importance as bishop is overshadowed by his reputation for posthumous miracle-working.

Contents

Recorded life

Saint Swithun was Bishop of Winchester from 30 October 852 to his death on 2 July 862.[1] However, he is scarcely mentioned in any document of his own time. His death is entered in the Canterbury manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (MS F) under the year 861.[2] His signature is appended to the witness lists of several Anglo-Saxon charters. Of these charters three belong to 833, 838, 860–862. In the first the saint signs as Swithunus presbyter regis Egberti, in the second as Swithunus diaconus, and in the third as Swithunus episcopus. This means that if the second charter is genuine, the first must be wrong, and it is so marked in Kemble.

More than a hundred years later, when Dunstan and Æthelwold of Winchester were inaugurating their church reform, Saint Swithun was adopted as patron of the restored church at Winchester, formerly dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul. His body was transferred from its almost forgotten grave to Æthelwold's new basilica on 15 July 971, and according to contemporary writers, numerous miracles preceded and followed the move.

Traditional life

The revival of Saint Swithun's fame gave rise to a mass of legendary literature. The so-called Vita S. Swithuni of Lantfred and Wulfstan, written about 1000, hardly contain any biographical fact; all that has in later years passed for authentic detail of Saint Swithun's life is extracted from a biography ascribed to Goscelin of St Bertin's, a monk who came over to England with Hermann, bishop of Salisbury from 1058 to 1078. From this writer we learn that Saint Swithun was born in the reign of Egbert of Wessex, and was ordained priest by Helmstan, bishop of Winchester (838-c. 852). His fame reached the king's ears, and he appointed him tutor of his son, Æthelwulf (alias Adulphus), and considered him one of his chief friends.

Under Æthelwulf, Swithun was appointed bishop of Winchester, to which see he was consecrated by Archbishop Ceolnoth. In his new office he was known for his piety and his zeal in building new churches or restoring old ones. At his request Æthelwulf gave the tenth of his royal lands to the Church. Swithun made his diocesan journeys on foot; when he gave a banquet he invited the poor and not the rich. William of Malmesbury adds that, if Bishop Ealhstan of Sherborne was Æthelwulf's minister for temporal matters, Saint Swithun was the minister for spiritual matters.

Swithun's best known miracle was his restoration on a bridge of a basket of eggs that workmen had maliciously broken. Of other stories connected with St Swithun the two most famous are those of the Winchester egg-woman and Queen Emma's ordeal. The former is to be found in Goscelin's Life (c. 1100), the latter in Thomas Rudborne's Historia major (15th century), a work which is also responsible for the not improbable legend that Swithun accompanied Alfred on his visit to Rome in 856. He died on 2 July 862, and gave orders that he was not to be buried within the church, but outside in a vile and unworthy place.

Veneration

Saint Swithun's day is 15 July. He was moved from his grave to an indoor shrine in the Old Minster at Winchester in 971. His body was probably later split between a number of smaller shrines. His head was certainly detached and, in the Middle Ages, taken to Canterbury Cathedral. Peterborough Abbey also had an arm. His main shrine was transferred into the new Norman cathedral at Winchester in 1093. He was installed on a 'feretory platform' above and behind the high altar. The retrochoir was built in the early 13th century to accommodate the huge numbers of pilgrims wishing to visit his shrine and enter the 'holy hole' beneath him. His empty tomb in the ruins of the Old Minster was also popular with visitors. The shrine was only moved into the retrochoir itself in 1476. It was demolished in 1538 during the English Reformation. A modern representation of it now stands on the site.

As he was Bishop of Winchester, there are many dedications to Saint Swithun at churches throughout the south of England, especially in Hampshire. An example is the church in Headbourne Worthy to the north of Winchester, probably not a very notable church but its setting is superb: it is surrounded on three sides by a creek that flows from a spring in the village. The lych gate on the south is also a bridge over the creek, which is unusual. Further afield, he has a church in Lincoln and was also venerated in western Norway, where the cathedral in Stavanger is dedicated to him. There is a St Swithin's Lane in the City of London, EC4N. There is a St Swithun's School for girls in Winchester.

Proverb

The name of Swithun is best-known today for a British weather lore proverb, which says that if it rains on Saint Swithun's day, 15 July, it will rain for 40 days.

St Swithun's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain no more

A Buckinghamshire variation has

If on St Swithun's day it really pours
You're better off to stay indoors.

Swithun was initially buried out of doors, rather than in his cathedral, apparently at his own request. William of Malmesbury recorded that the bishop left instructions that his body should be buried outside the church, ubi et pedibus praetereuntium et stillicidiis ex alto rorantibus esset obnoxius [where it might be subject to the feet of passers-by and to the raindrops pouring from on high], which has been taken as indicating that the legend was already well-known in the 12th century.

In 971 it was decided to move his body to a new indoor shrine, and one theory traces the origin of the legend to a heavy shower by which, on the day the move, the saint marked his displeasure towards those who were removing his remains. This story, however, lacks proof, and cannot be traced further back than the 17th or 18th century at most. Also, it is at variance with the 10th century writers, who all agreed that the move took place in accordance with the saint's desire expressed in a vision. James Raine suggested that the legend was derived from the tremendous downpour of rain that occurred, according to the Durham chroniclers, on Saint Swithun's Day, 1315.

More probable is John Earle's suggestion that the legend comes from a pagan or possibly prehistoric day of augury. In France, Saint Medard (8 June), Urban of Langres, and Saint Gervase and Saint Protais (19 June) are credited with an influence on the weather almost identical with that attributed to St Swithun in England. In Flanders, there is St Godelieve (6 July) and in Germany the Seven Sleepers' Day (27 June). There is a scientific basis to the legend of St Swithun's day. Around the middle of July, the jet stream settles into a pattern which, in the majority of years, holds reasonably steady until the end of August. When the jet stream lies north of the British Isles then continental high pressure is able to move in; when it lies across or south of the British Isles, Arctic air and Atlantic weather systems predominate.[3]

Swithun is regarded as one of the saints to whom one should pray in the event of drought.

See also

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

References

  1. ^ Powicke Handbook of British Chronology p. 257
  2. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (MS F).
  3. ^ The Times, Follow St Swithin: book a British break

Sources

  • Powicke, F. Maurice and E. B. Fryde Handbook of British Chronology 2nd. ed. London:Royal Historical Society 1961.
  • Andrew Godsell "Saint Swithin and the Rain" in "Legends of British History" (2008).

Further reading

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Helmstan
Bishop of Winchester
852–862
Succeeded by
Ealhferth
Advertisements

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Database error article)

From LoveToKnow 1911

(There is currently no text in this page)


Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message