St Swithin’s Day

Today is St Swithin’s Day! Swithin (or Swithun) was a bishop of Winchester, the Anglo-Saxon capital of England (the later cathedral is shown above). He served in the post for about ten years, between 853 and his death in c863. But his fame is derived from an incident that happened over 100 years later.

Swithin had requested that his body be buried outside the cathedral, “where it might be subject to the feet of passers-by and to the raindrops from on high”. In 971, so legend has it, when the bishops Dunstan and Æthelwold were working on plans to reform the church, they arranged for his body to be brought into the cathedral. To mark his displeasure, Swithin caused a heavy fall of rain which lasted for forty days. (It’s a lovely story, but unfortunately there’s no evidence of this legend being recorded until the 17th or 18th century.)

But that doesn’t stop people, even today, from keeping an anxious eye out for what the weather is doing on 15 July.

St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain, for forty days it will remain

St Swithun’s day, if thou be fair, for forty days ’twill rain nae mare

Unsurprisingly, St Swithin, is the saint to whom one should direct requests for rain. The cathedral at Stavanger in Norway is dedicated to him, as well as a number of churches in the south of England. And, for Regency fans, Jane Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral too.

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered into my July draw to win a set of Papyrus notecard.

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