Celtic- St. Frideswide of Oxford – 19 October

St. Frideswide of Oxford, Virgin,
(Fredeswinda, Frevisse)

Saint Frideswide hides from King Algar amongst swines. Part of the St Frideswide window at Christ Church (Oxford) Public Domain

Died c. 735; second feast day is February 12. Her maxim from childhood is said to be: Whatsoever is not God is nothing.

Little can be said for certain about Frideswide because the earliest written account dates only from the 12th century, when her abbey became an Augustinian foundation. William of Malmesbury recorded the legend from a version attributed to Prior Robert of Cricklade. Nevertheless, recent historical and archaeological research has clarified the background and some of the details of the saint’s traditional legend.

This account follows the archetypical miracles of God preserving His holy virgins. The story goes that Frideswide was a Mercian princess, the daughter of Didian (or Dida) of Eynsham, whose lands included the upper reaches of the River Thames. Her father, a sub-king under the Mercian overlordship, endowed minster churches at Bampton and Oxford.

Frideswide took a vow of perpetual virginity, but Algar, a local prince, (or Aethelbald of Mercia) could not believe that she would not marry him. Desiring to fulfil her vow, she fled into hiding at Binsey (near the current Oxford), where she remained for three years as Algar continued to search for her. Then Algar was struck blind. When he renounced his desire to marry her, his sight was restored at Bampton upon Frideswide’s intercession.

Eventually, Frideswide was appointed the first abbess of Saint Mary’s double monastery at Oxford, where she peacefully lived out the balance of her life. The convent flourished becoming the site of Christ Church and her name was not forgotten as the town of Oxford arose around the [ abbey].

Source: Celtic and Old English Saints – 19 October


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