Osgyth

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Saint Osgyth
Osith.png
An illuminated capital commencing the anonymous "La Vie seinte Osith, virge e martire" (Campsey Manuscript, British Library Additional Ms 70513, fol. 134v)
Born Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire
Died700 AD
Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church
Catholic Church
Anglican Communion
Canonized Pre-congregation
Feast 7 October
Attributes Depicted carrying her own head [ citation needed ], represented in art with a stag behind her and a long key hanging from her girdle, or otherwise carrying a key and a sword crossed

Osgyth (or Osyth; died c. 700 AD) was an English saint. She is primarily commemorated in the village of Saint Osyth, Essex, near Colchester. Alternative spellings of her name include Sythe, Othith and Ositha. Born of a noble family, she founded a priory near Chich which was later named after her.

Contents

Life

Born in Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire (at that time part of Mercia), she was the daughter of Frithuwald, a sub-king of Mercia in Surrey. [1] Her mother was Wilburh, of the royal house of Mercia. [2] Her parents, with St. Erconwald, founded Chertsey Abbey in AD 675.

Raised in the care of her maternal aunts, St Edith of Aylesbury and Edburga of Bicester, her ambition was to become an abbess, but she was too important as a political pawn to be set aside. [3] She was forced by her father into a dynastic marriage with Sighere, King of Essex. She is likely the mother of Offa of Essex, although this is not certain. [1]

While her husband ran off to hunt down a beautiful white stag, Osgyth persuaded two local bishops to accept her vows as a nun. Upon his return some days later, he reluctantly agreed to her decision and granted her some land at Chich near Colchester where she established a convent, [2] and ruled as first abbess. She was beheaded by some raiding pirates, perhaps because she may have resisted being carried off. [2]

Legends

One day, St. Edith sent Osgyth to deliver a book to St. Modwenna of Northumbria at her nunnery. To get there, Osgyth had to cross a stream by a bridge. The stream swollen, the wind high, she fell into the water and drowned. Her absence was not noted for two days. Edith thought she was safe with Modwenna who was not expecting her visit. On the third day, Edith, wondering that her pupil had not returned, went to Modwenna. The abbesses were greatly concerned when they discovered Osgyth was apparently lost. They searched for her and found the child lying near the banks of the stream. The abbesses prayed for her restoration, and commanded her to arise from the water and come to them. This she did. [4] A similar tale is found in Irish hagiography.

Her later death was accounted a martyrdom by some, but Bede makes no mention of Saint Osgyth. The 13th-century chronicler Matthew Paris repeats some of the legend that had accrued around her name. The site of her martyrdom became transferred to the holy spring at Quarrendon. The holy spring at Quarrendon, mentioned in the time of Osgyth's aunts, now became associated with her legend, in which Osgyth stood up after her execution, picking up her head like Saint Denis in Paris, and other cephalophoric martyrs and walking with it in her hands, to the door of a local convent, before collapsing there. Some modern authors link the legends of cephalophores miraculously walking with their heads in their hands [5] to the Celtic cult of heads.

Gatehouse of the former St Osyth's Priory (later abbey), St Osyth, Essex StOsyth'sPrioryGatehouse.jpg
Gatehouse of the former St Osyth's Priory (later abbey), St Osyth, Essex

Veneration

Her cult was promoted by Maurice, bishop of London, where there was a shrine dedicated to her at St. Paul's Cathedral. [6]

Around 1121, his successor, Richard de Belmeis I founded a priory for canons of Saint Augustine, on the site of a former nunnery at Chich. [3] He obtained the relic of an arm for the monastery church. His remains were buried in the chancel of the church in 1127: he bequeathed the church and tithes to the canons, who elected as their first abbot or prior William de Corbeil, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury (died in 1136). Corbeil acquired the other arm for Canterbury.

Benefactions, charters, and privileges granted by Henry II, made the Canons wealthy: at the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, priory revenues were valued at £758 5s. 8d. yearly. In 1397 the abbot of St Osgyth was granted the right to wear a mitre and give the solemn benediction, and, more singularly, the right to ordain priests, conferred by Pope Boniface IX. [7] The gatehouse (illustrated), the so-called 'Abbot's Tower' and some ranges of buildings remain.

Osgyth's burial site at St. Mary the Virgin, Aylesbury became a site of great, though unauthorized pilgrimage; following a papal decree in 1500, the bones were removed from the church and buried in secret. Undeterred, according to the curious 17th-century antiquary John Aubrey (author of the Brief Lives), "in those days, when they went to bed they did rake up the fire, and make a X on the ashes, and pray to God and Saint Sythe (Saint Osgyth) to deliver them from fire, and from water, and from all misadventure." A house in Aylesbury is still called St Osyth's in her honour.

Her feast day is 7 October. She is normally depicted carrying her own head.[ citation needed ]

Related Research Articles

Quarrendon Human settlement in England

Quarrendon or Quarrendon Leas is a medieval English village near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, England, which has been depopulated since the 16th century and is now a scheduled monument.

Bierton Human settlement in England

Bierton is a village and civil parish in Buckinghamshire, England, about half a mile northeast of the town of Aylesbury. It is mainly a farming parish. Together with the hamlets of Broughton, Kingsbrook, Broughton Crossing and Burcott it historically formed the civil parish of Bierton with Broughton within Aylesbury Vale district and form part of the Aylesbury Urban Area, but in 2020 the parish was broken into three, with Bierton becoming its own parish.

Frithuswith Anglo-Saxon noble and patron saint of Oxford, England

Frithuswith, commonly Frideswide, was an English princess and abbess. She is credited as the foundress of a monastery later incorporated into Christ Church, Oxford. She was the daughter of a sub-king of a Mercia named Dida of Eynsham whose lands occupied western Oxfordshire and the upper reaches of the River Thames.

St Osyth English seaside resort

St Osyth is an English village and civil parish in the Tendring District of north-east Essex, about 5 miles (8.0 km) west of Clacton-on-Sea and 12 miles (19.3 km) south-east of Colchester. It lies on the B1027, Colchester–Clacton road. The village is named after Osgyth, a 7th-century saint and princess. Locally, the name is sometimes pronounced "Toosey". It is claimed to be the driest recorded place in the United Kingdom.

Eadburh of Bicester

Eadburh of Bicester was an English nun, abbess, and saint from the 7th century. She has been called a "bit of a mystery"; there have been several Saxon saints with the same name, so it is difficult to pinpoint which one was Eadburh. It is most likely that Eadburh of Bicester was the daughter of King Penda of Mercia, who was pagan but had several children who were Christians. Eadburgh was born in Quarrendon. Her sister was Edith, with whom she co-founded an abbey near Aylesburg; Eadburh probably became abbess at Aylesburg. She was also aunt of Osgyth, whom she trained "in the religious life". There are legends that claim that Edburgh and Edith found Osyth after she had drowned three days earlier and "witnessed her return to life".

Leoba

Leoba was an Anglo-Saxon Benedictine nun and is recognized as a saint. In 746 she and others left Wimborne Minster in Dorset to join her kinsman Boniface in his mission to the German people. She was a learned woman and was involved in the foundation of nunneries in Kitzingen and Ochsenfurt. She had a leading role in evangelizing the area. Leoba was acclaimed for many miracles: saving a village from fire; saving a town from a terrible storm; protecting the reputation of the nuns in her convent; and saving the life of a fellow nun who was gravely ill – all accomplished through prayer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cuthburh</span>

Saint Cuthburh or Cuthburg, Cuthburga was the first Abbess of Wimborne Minster. She was the sister of Ine, King of Wessex and was married to the Northumbrian king Aldfrith.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Seaxburh of Ely</span> Queen of King Eorcenberht of Kent

Seaxburh, also Saint Sexburga of Ely was a Queen as well as an abbess, and is a saint of the Christian Church. She was married to King Eorcenberht of Kent.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mildburh</span>

Saint Mildburh was the Benedictine abbess of Wenlock Priory. Her feast day is 23 February.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St. Botolph's Priory</span>

St. Botolph's Priory was a medieval house of Augustinian canons in Colchester, Essex, founded c. 1093. The priory had the distinction of being the first and leading Augustinian convent in England until its dissolution in 1536.

Frithuwald was a seventh-century Anglo-Saxon ruler in Surrey, and perhaps also in modern Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, who is known from two surviving charters. He was a sub-king ruling under King Wulfhere of Mercia. According to late hagiographical materials, he was a brother-in-law of Wulfhere. The monks of Saint Peter's Minster, Chertsey, revered Frithuwald, whom they considered the founder of their monastery, as a saint.

Saint Edith of Polesworth is an obscure Anglo-Saxon abbess associated with Polesworth (Warwickshire) and Tamworth (Staffordshire) in Mercia. Her historical identity and floruit are uncertain. Some late sources make her a daughter of King Edward the Elder, while other sources claim she is the daughter of Egbert of Wessex. Her feast day is 15 July.

Modwenna, or Modwen, was a nun and saint in England, who founded Burton Abbey in Staffordshire in the 7th century.

Saint Eanswith, also spelled Eanswythe or Eanswide, was an Anglo-Saxon princess, who is said to have founded Folkestone Priory, one of the first Christian monastic communities for women in Britain. Her possible remains were the subject of research, published in 2020.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Domne Eafe</span>

Domne Eafe, also Domneva, Domne Éue, Æbbe, Ebba, was, according to the Kentish royal legend, a granddaughter of King Eadbald of Kent and the foundress of the double monastery of Minster in Thanet Priory at Minster-in-Thanet during the reign of her cousin King Ecgberht of Kent. A 1000-year-old confusion with her sister Eormenburg means she is often now known by that name. Married to Merewalh of Mercia, she had at least four children. When her two brothers, Æthelred and Æthelberht, were murdered she obtained the land in Thanet to build an abbey, from a repentant King Ecgberht. Her three daughters all went on to become abbesses and saints, the most famous of which, Mildrith, ended up with a shrine in St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury.

Repton Abbey was an Anglo-Saxon Benedictine abbey in Derbyshire, England. Founded in the 7th century, the abbey was a double monastery, a community of both monks and nuns. The abbey is noted for its connections to various saints and Mercian royalty; two of the thirty-seven Mercian Kings were buried within the abbey's crypt. The abbey was abandoned in 873, when Repton was overrun by the invading Great Heathen Army.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Osyth's Priory</span>

St Osyth's Abbey was a house of Augustinian canons in the parish of St Osyth in Essex, England in use from the 12th to 16th centuries. Founded by Richard de Belmeis, Bishop of London, c. 1121, it became one of the largest religious houses in Essex. It was dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul as well as St Osyth (Osith), a royal saint and virgin martyr. Bishop Richard obtained the arm bone of St Osyth from Aylesbury for the monastic church and granted the canons the parish church of St Osyth.

Blythburgh Priory was a medieval monastic house of Augustinian canons, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, located in the village of Blythburgh in Suffolk, England. Founded in the early 12th century, it was among the first Augustinian houses in England and began as a cell of St Osyth's Priory in Essex. Although it acquired a conventual life of its own, its community was always small and in some respects maintained dependency upon the parent house. It was earmarked for closure by Cardinal Wolsey during the late 1520s but survived his fall and continued until dissolution in 1536.

Eadgyth of Aylesbury also known as Eadridus was a Dark Ages Catholic saint from Anglo-Saxon England.

References

  1. 1 2 Wragg, Stefany. Early English Queens, 650–850, Taylor & Francis, 2022, p. 89 ISBN   9781000595222
  2. 1 2 3 Butler, Alban. "St Osyth, Martyr", Butler's Lives of the Saints, Vol. 10, Liturgical Press, 1995, p. 46 ISBN   9780814623862
  3. 1 2 "History", St. Osyth Priory
  4. Dunbar, Agnes. "A Dictionary of Saintly Women" (1904)PD-icon.svgThis article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain .
  5. White, Beatrice, "A Persistent Paradox" Folklore 83.2 (Summer 1972), pp. 122-131, at p. 123: "The stories of St. Edmund, St. Kenelm, St. Osgyth, and St. Sidwell in England, St. Denis in France, St. Melor and St. Winifred in Celtic territory, preserve the pattern and strengthen the link between legend and folklore," (White 1972:123)
  6. Burns, Arthur, St. Paul's: The Cathedral Church of London, 604-2004, Yale University Press, 2004, p. 117 ISBN   9780300092769
  7. Egerton Beck, "Two Bulls of Boniface IX for the Abbot of St. Osyth" The English Historical Review26.101 (January 1911:124-127).

Further reading