Gotta love a saint named Swithun

Over at the well-written The Sensible Bond we find this on an interesting English Saint:

Today is traditionally the feast of St Swithun, bishop of Winchester. If people know anything about him, it tends to be the legend that associates his feast day with summer weather. Should it rain today, the legend states, it will rain for forty days. If it stays fine today, then it will supposedly stay fine for forty days. When Saint Swithun died in 862, his mortal remains were buried at his own request outside the old minster of Winchester. There his grave could be walked upon and there it lay open to the gentle elements; a bishop must be humble, even in death. In 971, however, after the construction of the new minster in Winchester they moved his body from the original grave and into the new church where a shrine was established until the Reformation (now re-established). Yet, that very night, a terrible rain storm began and it reportedly rained for forty days. This was said to be a sign of the saint’s wrath at his being moved.


Check out the post "Greatness in a handful of dust" for the rest!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Saints: Stories & Symbols. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I do not doubt that Saints, like angels, can be ministers of God’s wrath. What the circumstances surrounding the relocation of the body were I do not know. However, I would not be too attached to the idea that this sign of forty days of rain or sun is binding in heaven. Perhaps someone can observe it using the scientific method?

  2. Brian Sudlow says:

    If you read the rest of the piece, Clark, you’ll see what I think of the legend.

    Thanks for this plug, Fr Z! Looking forward to seeing you in London or elsewhere soon.

  3. James A says:

    You remind me of many happy – and sunny – afternoons spent (almost) studying on the lawn of St Swithun’s quad at Magdalen College Oxford in the early ’90s!

  4. roydosan says:

    It rained a lot in london today. farewell Summer…

  5. Jeff says:

    Newman refers to St. Swithun in his lovely “Second Spring”: “York had its St. Paulinus, St. John, St. Wilfrid, and St. William; London, its St. Erconwald; Durham, its St. Cuthbert; Winton, its St. Swithun.”

  6. Tina in Ashburn says:

    I’ve always loved that name… so many old names long-forgotten and unused.

  7. Trubador says:

    St. Swithun is actually mentioned in the song “House of Clocks” by Al Stewart on his wine/vineyard themed CD “Down in the Cellar”.

  8. Andrew, medievalist says:

    um…what happens if, like most of the British Isles, it both rained and shined today?

  9. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    And let’s not forget that other St Swithun, St Swithun Wells, married man, schoolmaster, and martyr (died 10 December 1591).

  10. Michael Ford says:

    I actually spent my childhood as a member of St. Swithin’s Church, an Episcopal mission in Forks, Washington (I’m a later convert to Catholicism). It was named after that worthy saint because Forks is one of the rainiest locations in the US. Of course, the town is now more famous, or infamous, for being the “location” of the fictional Twilight series of novels…

  11. Dominic H says:

    There are two cathedrals, and two cathedrals only, in the world, dedicated to St Swithun: the now Anglican one in Winchester, England, and the now Lutheran one in Stavanger, on the west coast of Norway. I’ve been to both, but am not sure if St Swithun visited Norway during the times that there was a close connection between our lands.

  12. Boko says:

    `Kippers for breakfast, Aunt Helga? Is it St. Swithin’s Day already?’

    `’Tis,’ replied Aunt Helga.

  13. Amy, MEV says:

    Speaking of names, my husband and I have another child on the way, and we have the most awful time choosing names we BOTH like. We do not find out the gender ahead of time, so we need both male and female. Maybe the all-knowing FR.Z can help. These are the names of our older children:

    Jeanne (pronounced “Joan”) Kateri
    Joseph Maximilian (he goes by Max)
    Lydia Rose

    I still “owe” St. Anthony a namesake, so the boys’ name will have Anthony in it (first or middle)

    I LOVE Maria, but we have a Maria in the family (she is 9 and lives in the same town), so we would like Maria for the middle name.

    My favorite Saints all seem to have “funny” names that my husband or I do not like at all, so I’m stumped.

    So what do you think, FR. Anthony _________ or __________ Maria. Our last name starts with an “S” (which is why Anthony’s middle name cannot be Stephen).

  14. MB says:

    That’s funny — I’d always heard of St. Swithun’s as “the moveable feast day,” which could be celebrated whenever you needed a feast day. Of course, this was from our Polish/Irish neighbors, who hailed from somewheres around Hamtramck (I think), so maybe it’s a local interpretation.

  15. Christa says:

    Other than the apostles and the angels, St. Swithin is the first saint I learned. Why?

    Because St. Swithin\’s Day was always celebrated in the Pogo comic strip! I was very young when I heard my dad mention it, and looked it up in the encyclopedia, because it was such an odd name. (I grew up a Protestant.)

    So I have loved St. Swithin for a very long time.

  16. Nan says:

    Amy, my mother had the exact same reason for not naming my sister Ann Shirley.

  17. Carl says:

    didnt bart simpson write a play that mentioned St. Swithun’s day?

  18. irishgirl says:

    I know that Jane Austen’s last piece of writing was a poem about St. Swithun’s Day.

    She wrote it just days before her death in Winchester.

  19. Ståle says:

    Here in Norway, we have both a Catholic parish and a secular high school named after St Swithun.

Comments are closed.