Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Happy St. Frideswide's Day!

I promise not to make a habit of this. But while I was huffily searching the shelves for my copy of Tristram Shandy, I came across The Oxford Companion to the Year. I flipped to today's entry and learned some fascinating info about Frideswide, the patron saint of the city and University of Oxford. She died in 727. The postmortem details were what really gripped me:
The shrine had been despoiled in 1538, but her purported bones were reburied on the site. Close by, in 1553, was buried Catherine Dammartin, the first wife of the Protestant reformer and Regius Professor of Divinity Peter Martyr or Pietro Martire Vermigli; under Mary, St. Frideswide's remains were exhumed and placed in silk bags, Catherine's also exhumed but cast out on a dunghill. In 1561, at the north-east end of the cathedral, Canon James Calfhill solemnly reburied the two sets of relics so commingled as nevermore to be told apart: "Here lies true religion with superstition."

At St. Margaret's church in Binsey, near Oxford, there is a well that legend associated with Frideswide; it is said that, pursued by her suitor Aelfgar, she prayed for deliverance to St. Margaret of Antioch, who blinded him with a flash of lightning and cured him of his lust; when Frideswide prayed again that he should be healed, a spring burst forth, in which she bathed his eyes. It is said to be the origin of Lewis Carroll's treacle well.

Comments: how do you celebrate it? ;)
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