St. Swithun,
Bishop of Winchester

(c.AD 800-862)

St. Swithun had been Prior of the monastery attached to the cathedral, before he was made Bishop of Winchester in AD 852. He was, say the chroniclers, a diligent builder of churches in places where there were none before and a repairer of those that had been destroyed or ruined. He also built a bridge on the east side of the city and, during the work he made a practice of sitting there to watch the workmen, that his presence might stimulate their industry. One of his most edifying miracles is said to have been performed at this bridge where he restored an old woman's basket of eggs, which the workmen had maliciously broken. It is more certain that Swithun was one of the most learned men of his time and the tutor, successively, of King Aethelwulf of Wessex and of his son, the illustrious Alfred. He died on 2nd July AD 862 and was buried, according to his own desire, in the churchyard of the Old Minster (Cathedral) at Winchester, where "passers by might tread on his grave and where the rain from the eaves might fall on it." His reputation as a weather saint is said to have arisen from the translation of his body from this lowly grave to its golden shrine within the Cathedral, having been delayed by incessant rain. Hence the weather on the festival of his translation (15th July) indicated, according to the old rhyme, what it would be for the next forty days:

"St. Swithun's day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain;
St. Swithun's day, if thou be fair,
For forty days 'twill rain na mair."

June and July, however, have their weather saints in the calendars of France and of Belgium, as well as in those of other parts of Europe:

"Quand il pleut a la Saint Gervais (19th July)
Il pleut quarante jours apres."

Is the old French proverb, while Wedermaend, the 'month of storms' was the old Flemish name for July.


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