Bishop of Winchester; died 2 July, 862.
Very little is known of this saint's life,
for his biographers constructed their "Lives" long after his death and there is
hardly any mention of him in contemporary documents. Swithin was one of the two
trusted counsellors of Egbert, King of the West Saxons (d. 839), helping him in
ecclesiastical matters, while Ealstan of Sherborne was his chief advisor He
probably entrusted Swithin with the education of his son Ethelwulf and caused
the saint to be elected to the Bishopric of Winchester in succession to Helmstan.
His consecration by Ceolnoth, Archbishop of Canterbury, seems to have taken
place on 30 October, 852. On his deathbed Swithin begged that he should be
buried outside the north wall of his cathedral where passers-by should pass over
his grave and raindrops from the eaves drop upon it.
More than a century later (931) his body was
translated with great pomp to a shrine within the new church erected by Bishop
Ethelwulf (d. 984). A number of miraculous cures took place and Swithin was
canonized by popular acclamation. In 1093 his remains were again translated to
the new church built by Bishop Walkelin. The shrine was destroyed and the relics
scattered in 1538.
It has often been said that the saint was a
Benedictine monk and even Prior of Winchester but there is no evidence for this
statement. From the first translation of his relics in 984 till the destruction
of the shrine St. Swithin was the patron of Winchester Cathedral. He is best
known from the popular superstition attached to his name and expressed in the
St. Swithin's day if thou
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.
been many attempts to explain the origin of this belief, but none have proved
generally satisfactory. A similar belief attaches in France to 8 June, the feast
of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius, and to other feasts in different countries .
Swithin's feast is kept on 15 July, the date of his first translation, and is
retained in the Anglican Calendar.