Yesterday I attended the Remembrance Service at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. The Anglican rituals were familiar in a fresh and inspiring setting. My eyes closed as the all boys choir sang Pie Jesu. Almost I forgot that I would have a mad dash to catch the train back to Wales.
Yet what captured my attention most and ended with an unwieldy scram to the train station with an anxious friend scanning the Sunday crowd and four minutes to board was my discovery of St. Frideswide!
I do not know much about saints but her story is interesting. St. Frideswide (AD 665-735) is the Patron Saint of Oxford.
Frideswide grew up around Oxford to pious parents who committed her to the care of a holy woman. She later returned to her father’s care (he was a minor 7th century sub-king) and she persuaded him to build her a church with convent buildings in Oxford. She entered the church with 12 other young women bound by holy charity and love of seclusion.
Of course there is a prince!
Prince Aelfgar, a minor prince of Mercia heard of Frideswide’s great beauty and her father’s wealth and wanted to marry her. She excused herself on the grounds of her celibacy, however the prince persisted. He made a plan to abduct her but she discovered the plan and fled into hiding. Prince Aelfgar was fuming and tried to find her hiding place but could not.
When Frideswide considered it safe she returned to Oxford, but still quite angry, Aelfgar besieged the city and threatened to burn it to the ground. In the tumult, Aelfgar lost his sight. Frideswide then agreed to restore his sight on his earnest repentance and the promise that she could retain her freedom in the nunnery in holiness.
Her remains are supposedly enshrined in the new priory Church in Christ Church and the origins of the University of Oxford are said to have emerged from the school she established there.