St. Frideswide

Continuing the series on monastic saints, compiled by Jason John Edwards, Obl.S.B.

Saint Frideswide, Patron Saint of Oxford

From the Catholic Encyclopedia Online.

Frideswide “(Frideswida, Fredeswida, French: Frévisse, Old English: Fris), virgin, patroness of Oxford, lived from about 650 to 735. According to her legend, in its latest form, she was the child of King Didan and Safrida, and was brought up to holiness by Algiva.  She refused the proffered hand of King Algar, a Mercian, and fled from him to Oxford. It was in vain that he pursued her; a mysterious blindness fell on him, and he left her in her cell. From this eventually developed the monastery, in which she died in 19 October (her principal feast), and was buried.”

The relics of the saint have claimed a particular place in the history of the English reformation:

Under Henry VIII, “her shrine was dismantled, and her relics … were relegated to some out-of-the-way corner. In the reign of Edward VI, Catherine Cathie was buried near the site of her shrine. She was a runaway nun, who had been through the form of marriage with Peter Martyr, the ex-friar. The Catholics, as was but natural, ejected her bones in the reign of Queen Mary.  But after Elizabeth had reinstated Protestantism, James Calfhill, appointed Canon of Christ Church in 1561, dug up Cathie’s bones once more, mixed them up (in derision of the Catholics [and, some say, at the behest of Elizabeth I]) with the alleged remaining relics of the saint, and buried them both together amid the plaudits of his Zwinglian friends. …”

St. Frideswide’s monastery was eventually given to the Canons Regular and is now Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

A hymn in honor of St. Frideswide has been written.  “It is sung to Handel’s March from Judas Maccabeus – Hail the conquering hero comes – and also used for Thine be the Glory.”  The first several verses:

“Frideswide our patron, clear our clouded sight;
Help dissolve our darkness, bring us God’s own light.
Child of royal parents, courted by a king,
Sought a crown of glory, spurned a wedding ring.

“Frideswide our patron, clear our clouded sight;
Help dissolve our darkness, bring us God’s own light.

“Powerful and peaceful, vowed to God alone,
Frideswide chose a heavenly, not an earthly throne.
Prayer and meditation raised her soul above
All this world’s attraction; Jesus held herlove.

“Frideswide our patron, ….

“Algar of Leicester planned to do her wrong,
Sent his men to seize her, Frideswide’s faith was strong –
In an instant blinded then his sight restored,
They knew both the wrath and mercy of the Lord.”

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