Posted by: anna | July 16, 2012

St Swithun

Today in the calendar of early western saints we commemorate one of the better-known English saints, Swithun, bishop of Winchester ( 682). There is some connection between Old and New calendar dates of Swithin’s feast day – the usual English commemoration even now is 15 July, but according to Wikipedia it’s 2 July in Norway, and both Capgrave and Baring-Gould use 2 July. It cannot be insignificant that these are 13 days apart, the difference separating the Gregorian and Julian calendars! I wonder whether there’s more of a calendar connection than a death/translation one…From celt-saints:

‘Born in Wessex, England; died at Winchester, England, July 2, 862. The translation of his relics is observed 15 July.

‘Swithin was educated at the Old Abbey, Winchester, and was ordained (it is uncertain whether or not he was a monk). He became chaplain to King Egbert of the West Saxons, who appointed him tutor of his son Ethelwulf, and was one of the king’s counsellors. Swithun was named bishop of Winchester in 852 when Ethelwulf succeeded his father as king. Swithun built several churches and was known for his humility and his aid to the poor and needy (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney).

‘A miracle attributed to him in the Golden Legend illustrates his understanding of ordinary folk. A poor woman was pushed in a market-day crowd and dropped her basket of eggs. St. Swithun blessed the broken shells and the eggs were made whole again.

‘A long-held popular belief declares it will rain for 40 days if it rains on his feast day.

‘Saint Swithun’s day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain;
Saint Swithun’s day, if thou be fair,
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.’


O Swithune pater, præsul mitissime noster,
Per quem mira Deus signa facit Dominus.
Nos fragiles animo petimus defende paterno,
Sanctis atque tuis protege nos meritis.
Quo te pro nobis interveniente patrono
Possumus vitam scandere perpetuam.

O Father Swithun, our most merciful bishop,
By whom the Lord God has done wondrous signs,
We, frail of soul, entreat you to protect us as a father,
And by your holy merit defend us.
That by your patronal intervention for us
We may attain to the life everlasting.

– Antiphon for the Office of St Swithun, ?composed by John of Tynemouth in the first half of the 14th century (see Lapidge, above, and the Patrologia Latina.) translation mine and pending criticism from those with better (medieval) Latin than mine!

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