Posted by: anna | July 1, 2010

St Osanna

Today (18 June) no British saints are listed, so I have turned to Miss Dunbar and come up with a humdinger. I probably shouldn’t describe her, or rather her story, or rather even the story of how she came to be venerated at all, that way. But I’m particularly pleased with this one because it follows on rather well from my recent witterings re what saints’ lives are for anyway, and Margaret’s comment about a saint’s veneration, e.g. at a shrine, being less about the details of the saint’s life than with the perception of prayers being received there. Here we have a rather different case…

St. Osanna (1) was perhaps the daughter of Aldfred and ST. CUTHBURGA, for she is said to have been the sister of Osred, king of Northumbria. Some writers place her a generation later, and some doubt her existence. She is not much heard of in early history. Attention having been drawn to her relics which were preserved in a church in the Netherlands, it was ascertained that she was a Northumbrian princess of the seventh or eighth century, and that her sanctity was first manifested a considerable time after her death, by a miraculous flagellation she inflicted from her grave, and by which she converted a sinner. She was buried in the church of Hoveden, or Howden in Northumberland, but no special veneration was paid her until one day the concubine of the rector went into the church, and thoughtlessly sat down on the tomb. Presently she found that she could not rise from her seat. She writhed, she wept, she struggled, she called her friends and they pulled and pushed and hurt her, and tore her clothes, and still she could not be moved from the stone where she sat. At length she perceived that a punishment had fallen on her, and that, she was thus called to repentance. She resolved with many tears to amend her life, and separate from the priest with whom she lived, and when she had made a vow to do so, she was able to leave her seat, but not before her dress was torn, and her skin marked with many strokes of discipline. She has no day, but her story is told by the Bollandists, June 18, on the authority of Geraldus Cambrensis, among the Praetermissi.
– Historical Howden (ha) further elaborates that the attempt to free the unnamed concubine and the miraculous flagellation were conflated into a sound drubbing by townspeople who didn’t like that their priest had a concubine.
– the Wikipedia article includes a couple of links for sources about the interesting subject of clerical celibacy (and the lack of it, and the lack of requirement for it) in Anglo-Saxon times
Howden Minster – beautiful church! one of the few that seems to use achurchnearyou for its own web page
Holy St Osanna, pray to God for us.

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