Today we have a good pair – the very definitely historical, monastic, hierarchical, well-attested, saintly-living St Aethelwold, bishop of Winchester and ‘father of monks’, and St Sidwell, otherwise obscure murder victim whose dates are not known and whose story sounds – well, a little fortuitous maybe. Also listed for today are Martyrs Menas, Menais, and others of England (Greek) – these names are reproduced on any number of Russian English-language calendars online. I can find absolutely NOTHING about them at all. Perhaps if I were searching in Greek…
St. Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester (984)
St. Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, was born there of good parentage in the early years of the tenth century; d. 1 Aug., 984. After a youth spent at the court of King Athelstan, Ethelwold placed himself underElphege the Bald, Bishop of Winchester, who gave him the tonsure and ordained him priest along with Dunstan. At Glastonbury, where he was dean under Saint Dunstan, he was a mirror of perfection. In 955 he became Abbot of Abingdon; and 29 November, 963, was consecrated Bishop of Winchester by Dunstan, with whom and Oswald of Worcester he worked zealously in combating the general corruption occasioned by the Danish inroads. At Winchester, both in the old and in his new minster (see St Swithin), he replaced the evil-living seculars with monks and refounded the ancient nunnery. His labours extended to Chertsey, Milton (Dorsetshire), Ely, Peterborough, and Thorney; expelling the unworthy, rebuilding and restoring; to the rebellious “terrible as a lion”, to the meek “gentler than a dove”. The epithets “father of monks” and “benevolent bishop” summarize Ethelwold’s character as reformer and friend of Christ’s poor. Though he suffered much from ill-health, his life as scholar, teacher, prelate, and royal counsellor was ever austere. He was buried in Winchester cathedral, his body being translated later by Elphege, his successor. Abingdon monastery in the twelfth century had relics of Ethelwold. He is said to have written a treatise on the circle and to have translated the “Regularis Concordia”. His feast is kept on 1 August.
Not to be confounded with the foregoing are (2) St. Ethelwold, monk of Ripon, anchoret at Lindisfarne, d. about 720; feast kept 23 March; and (3) St. Ethelwold, Abbot of Melrose, Bishop of Lindisfarne, d. c. 740; feast kept 12 February.
Virgin-martyr Sidwell (Sativola, Sadfyl, Sidefulla)of Exeter (or 7/31 or 8/2).
Sidwell has been mentioned recently as the sister of St Juthwara, also known as Aude. Sidwell seems also to have fallen prey to the machinations of a wicked stepmother, or, as Marina Warner tells us in From the Beast to the Blonde, probably a real mother – many folk tales with wicked stepmothers are actually ‘sanitized’ versions of the original which featured the real mother. Sidwell ‘s stepmother apparently incited reapers to behead her with a scythe; water from a spring or well near her burial site outside the city of Exeter caused miraculous healings. That her attributes of a scythe and a well form a near-rebus of her name seem rather a coincidence… but there she is. This seems to be very much a local folk-saint story – it goes well with the Lesser Blessing of Water on 1 August.