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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Thursday, September 30, 2004

St. Swithun

For years, I've heard this as a rather odd-sounding title. When someone wants to make reference to a general, generic church-- as an example in conversation, or to avoid using a familiar local parish, etc.-- St. Swithun is often the appelation of choice. Sometimes, it's augmented: "St. Swithun's in the Swamp."

I'd always figured that it was simply a name that someone made up, as a change to protect the innocent. I rather like it, actually; it sounds kind of silly, to my 20th century ears, and it's fun to say.

Yesterday, I found out that he was real. I was reading one of my "England in the Age of Reform" texts, and came across a reference to St. Swithun. Who knew? So I looked him up, and learned that he was a bishop who lived in the 9th century, recognized as the patron saint of draught relief. Apparently he was popular enough that a lot of ancient British churches were named for him-- hence, I assume, his use as a generic.

Not a learning of major consequence, I suppose; but I'm strangely entertained by it.

Yes, I'm easily amused.


Blogger Don said...

St. Swithun's shrine (which I assume must have had some relic of his, if not his actual bones) was located at Winchester Cathedral -- until Cromwell's folks removed the shrine. There is now a memorial to him in the place where the shrine existed.

The poorer pilgrims in the middle ages who came to his shrine stayed in what is now called the Pilgrim School on the cathedral close.

Our parish choir stayed at the school, practiced in the room where the pilgrims slept, and sang at the cathedral for a week back in 2002. It was my first encounter with Saint Swithum. Great name, don't you think?

September 30, 2004 10:22 AM  

Blogger Susie said...

Yep, that one had me laughing aloud cuz I always thought it was made up too. I guess we should've known... truth really is stranger than fiction!

September 30, 2004 11:30 AM  

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