Swithin of Winchester, St.
SWITHIN OF WINCHESTER, ST.
Anglo-Saxon bishop; b. after 802; d. July 2, 862. Educated at Winchester and ordained a priest, he was chosen by King Egbert of Wessex as tutor for his son Ethelwulf. Upon the latter's accession (839) Swithin (Swithun) served as chief spiritual advisor. When Bishop Helmstan died, Swithin was consecrated, with royal approval, for the See of Winchester by Archbishop Ceolnoth of Canterbury on Oct. 30, 852. An energetic and virtuous bishop during very disturbed times, he is remembered especially for a remarkable humility. His cult arose a century after his death in the age of monastic revival. In 971, as the result of a vision, his remains were translated on July 15, 1093, from a neglected grave in the churchyard to the newly restored cathedral, thereafter called St. Swithin's. william of malmesbury recounts the bishop's request to be buried "where the footsteps of passerby and dripping rains from the eaves above would make the spot unpleasant." This statement may indicate that St. Swithin's legend already existed in the 12th century: that the weather will continue fair or foul as it is on St. Swithin's day for the next 40 days. His shrine, demolished at the Reformation, was restored in 1962.
Feast: July 2; July 15 (translation); Oct. 29 (ordination, Winchester).
Bibliography: Acta Sanctorum July 1:321–37. william of malmesbury, Gesta pontificum Anglorum, ed. n. e. s. a. hamilton Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores, 244 v. (London 1858–96; repr. New York 1964–), ordinarily called Rolls Series (52:1870) 2.75. florence of worcester, Chronicott ex chronicis, ed. b. thorpe, 2 v. (London 1848–49) 1:68–69, 79, 141. j. earle, Gloucester Fragments, 2 v. (London 1861) v.1, fac. of some leaves on St. Swithin pub. with elucidations and an essay. aelfric, Abbot of Eynsham, Lives of Three English Saints, ed. g. i. needham (rev. ed. Exeter 1976). j. earle, Gloucester Fragments (Folcroft, Pa. 1974)
[r. d. ware]