Posted by: anna | July 27, 2009

Juthwara of Cornwall

Here is the last of Sunday’s three British saints – one who should be dear to me, a patron saint of cheese, the Virgin-martyr Juthwara of Cornwall.

Virgin-martyr Juthwara of Cornwall
Juthwara (Aude) (date unknown), virgin (and martyr?), was British, perhaps from Cornwall. Her brother was said to be Paul Aurelian and her sisters Sidwell of Exeter and Wulvela of Cornwall. Her relics were translated to Sherborne under Ælfwald II (1045–58). These seem to be the most certain facts about her: her Legend in N.L.A. is a farrago of impossibilities. According to this story, as in the Legend of Sidwell, she was the victim of a jealous stepmother. Juthwara, a pious girl who practised much prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, suffered after her father’s death from a pain in the chest, brought on perhaps by her sorrow and austerities. The stepmother recommended as a remedy two cheeses applied to her breasts; meanwhile, she told her own wicked son, called Bana, that Juthwara was pregnant. He accused her, found her underclothes were moist, and struck off her head there and then. The usual spring of water then appeared; Juthwara carried her head back to the church; Bana repented, became a monk, and founded a monastery of Gerber (later called Le Relecq) on a British battlefield. The place of Juthwara’s death may have been Lanteglos by Camelford (Cornwall), where the church, now St. Julitta’s, may originally have been Juthwara’s. The neighbouring parish of Lancast is dedicated to her sisters. She is depicted with her sister Sidwell on the screens of Hennock and Ashton (Devon); her usual emblem is a cream-cheese or a sword. A late medieval statue at Guizeny (Brittany) shows her holding her head in her hand. Feast: 28 November , translation, 13 July . Roscarrock gives 6 January .

N.L.A., ii. 98–9; C. H. Talbot, ‘The Life of St. Wulsin of Sherborne by Gosecelin’, Rev. Bén., lxix (1959), 68–85 (completed by P. Grosjean in Anal. Boll., lxxviii (1960), 197–206); Baring-Gould and Fisher (s.v. Aude), i. 185–8.

“Juthwara” The Oxford Dictionary of Saints. David Hugh Farmer. Oxford University Press 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Oxford. 27 July 2009

More about her – and the other form of her name, Aud Wyry, from guess where and also from Fr Tim Dean of Westminster Cathedral. I think there may be a photo of her portrayal on the screen at Hennock in Robert Slack’s photos on flickr, though he doesn’t document the whole screen and I can’t see a cheese!

2011 update: celt-saints

I am also going to include the story of Juthwara’s sister Sidwell – it sounds historically implausible but a) that is not necessarily the point of saints and the stories of their lives and b) it is a cracking story.

I do not intend presenting any of these saints’ lives with an attitude of either excessive piety or any irreverence. It’s a fascinating subject and one I’m finding hugely enjoyable and endlessly interesting. It should also be spiritually rewarding, but spiritual rewards don’t come instantly…

Sidwell (Sativola), virgin. This saint, possibly of British origin, has been culted at Exeter from early times; by 1000, pilgrims visited her shrine, which was also mentioned by William Worcestre and Leland. The late medieval catalogue of English saints (C.S.P.) describes her as follows: ‘Born at Exeter, she was killed by her stepmother inciting the reapers to behead her. She was buried outside the city, where by her merits God heals the sick.’ Sidwell’s church just outside Exeter’s east gate survives; formerly there was a well, where presumably the cures took place. There is a dedication at Laneast (Cornwall) with her sister Wulvella, where there was also a holy well. In art she is represented with a scythe and a well at her side, as in stained glass at Exeter Cathedral, All Souls College, Oxford, and Ashton, and on at least seven painted Devonshire rood-screens. It can scarcely be an accident that the legend of the jealous stepmother is also present in the Acts of Juthwara, a supposed sister of Sidwell, nor that the emblems of Sidwell (scythe and well) correspond so closely to her name. Her historical existence must be considered doubtful. There is evidence for her feast being kept on 31 July (C.S.P. and Roscarrock), 1 August (Exeter calendar), and 2 August (a more substantial Exeter tradition, based on Grandisson’s calendar and martyrology).

P. Grosjean, ‘Legenda S. Sativolae Exoniensis’, Anal. Boll., liii (1935), pp.359–65;
id., ‘Codicis Gothani Appendix’, Anal. Boll., lviii (1940), pp.203–4;
William Worcestre, p. pp.125; J. Leland, Itinerary, 1, pp.228.

“Sidwell” The Oxford Dictionary of Saints. David Hugh Farmer. Oxford University Press 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Oxford. 27 July 2009

This is all giving me good ideas for summer pilgrimages round the West Country, collecting images and traditions about British saints… only of course in Cornwall I must be careful to say Cornish or at a pinch Brythonic saints.

Holy sisters Aude Wyry (Juthwara) and Sadfyl (Sidwell), pray to God for us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: