St. Eadburh of Bichester


The saint I chose today is St. Eadburh of Bicester, who lived in the seventh century, a "nun and perhaps abbess of Aylesbury".

In fact, it is probably best if I simply reproduce the very little that is known about St. Eadburh (or Edburg) from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints online:

Claimed to be a daughter of Penda, king of Mercia (although her name is absent from the usual lists), this Edburga, who helped to train Osith in the religious life, was a nun and perhaps abbess of Aylesbury, although the legend states that she lived at Adderbury (Oxon.), some thirty miles away, a place-name which means ‘Eadburg's burh’. Edburga's relics were translated to Bicester (Oxon.), a house of Austin Canons founded in 1182, which was dedicated to Our Lady and St Edburga. The splendid base of the shrine, made in 1320, survives in the church of Stanton Harcourt (Oxon.). Feast: 18 July, which by an unfortunate coincidence is also the translation feast of Edburga of Winchester. Edburga of Bicester also appears in litanies and, possibly in the Liber Vitae of Durham.

What did I know about this saint before today?

Nothing! I'd never heard of her, just as I'd never heard of Bicester.

Why did I choose this saint?

There were no stand-out saints today. I chose this saint because I'm quite drawn to ancient and medieval English Christianity. To be honest, I'm more drawn to it than I am to Irish Christianity of the same period. I like the Anglo-Saxon names. I like the savour of Merry England.

And I also chose this saint because so little is known about her. I generally don't like ancient and medieval saints because there is so much myth and so little solid knowledge. And the real problem is that the myth is usual so samey-- talking to wolves and so forth. (I'm not saying any given story might not be true rather than mythical-- I believe in miracles, after all-- but presumably the majority are myths.)

However, there's so little known about this saint that it's tantalising rather than tiresome. For instance, she's barely even mentioned in the Oxford Dictionary of Biography entry on King Penda of Mercia, her father-- the article doesn't even mention that she was a saint. And she herself has no entry on the same resource, that I could find.

And yet, she had a cult. A place, Adderbury, is named after her. People there allude to her every day without realizing it.

Concluding thoughts

All of this could apply to lots of other Anglo-Saxon saints. I suppose such obscure saints would only be important to you if you had some personal connection to them, like living in the area.

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