[MR] Death of St. Werburga
Garth Groff and Sally Sanford
mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Fri Feb 3 03:23:00 PST 2023
On this day in 699 or 700, one of the most important Saxon saints you never
heard of, Saint Werburga, departed the mortal world.
Werburga (or Werburg, and various other spellings) was born around 650 at
Stone in what is now Staffordshire to Wulfhere, King of Mercia, and his
queen Ermenilda. Werburga aspired to the holy life, and took the veil at
Ely Cathedral. She later left the cloister at the request of her uncle,
King Aethelred, returning to Mercia to reform convents and found new
Following her death, Werburga was interred first at Trentham where she
passed away, until her body was stolen and taken to Hanbury (where she had
supposedly said she wanted to be buried). To avoid the Vikings, the saint
was moved to the cathedral in the walled city of Chester in the late 9th
century. In 975 Chester cathedral was rededicated in her honor. Her shrine
became an important English pilgrimage destination. The shrine and tomb
were trashed during Henry VIII's protestant reformation, and all of her
relics were scattered.
Werburga will forever be associated with geese, thanks to a "miracle"
related by her 11th century hagiographer, Goscelin of Canterbury (who
actually dusted off the story from his earlier *vita* of an obscure Flemish
saint, Amelburga). According to Goscelin, geese were plaguing a farm near
Weedon. Saint Werburga ordered the geese to leave the field and enter a pen
for the night. The farm steward then killed and ate one of the geese. The
saint ordered the leftovers brought to her, and she restored the . . . uh .
. . cooked goose to life. The flock then departed, never to bother the farm
Saint Werburga remains the patron saint of Chester. Her feast day is
celebrated on 3 February (that's today, if you hadn't noticed, so don't eat
any geese today).
Werburga's best bio is at
Wikipedia also has a short biography, with a representation of Saint
Werburga's goose pilgrim badge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werburgh .
Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge 🦆
(Who can't resist a saint, however improbable their *vita* might be)
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