St. Swithun Bishop of Winchester (July 15)

St. Swithun was born at the end of the eighth century or beginning of the ninth, in Wessex, and studied grammar, philosophy and the Holy Scriptures at the Old Monastery in Winchester. After his ordination, Egbert, King of the West Saxons, (who became the first King of England) made him his chaplain. St. Swithun was known for his piety and prudence, and was given charge over the education of the King's son Ethelwulf. The King also made use of St. Swithun's advice in the running of his kingdom.

When King Egbert died, Ethelwulf became king and listened to the advice of Aelfstan, Bishop of Sherborne, in temporal matters, and St. Swithun in ecclesiastical matters, especially those which concerned his own soul. Ethelwulf worked to have St. Swithun made bishop of Winchester when Helmstan died. (St. Swithun was consecrated by Ceolnoth, Archbishop of Canterbury in 852.) Winchester was then the capital of England, and this was a very important post. Ethelwulf was very pleased with this as St. Swithun would always be near to him and could advice him in all matters now. Ethelwulf arranged for St. Swithun to teach his son too. That son was to be the most famous of all the Saxon kings _ Alfred the Great.

St. Swithun was a very good bishop and was known for his virtues. When he became bishop the first thing he did was to set out to see his diocese. He went barefoot and at night so that the people would not make a big celebration when he arrived. It was during these travels that he discovered that it took twice as long to travel as it should because there were not many bridges. He is remembered not only for building and repairing Churches but he is also remembered for building and repairing bridges.

He once came to see some work being done on one of the bridges. The men were working very hard. One of the men did not see a poor woman carrying her eggs to the town to sell. He bumped into her and broke all of the eggs. When she complained, he told her that she should watch out because they were very busy building a bridge and the bishop was watching them. St. Swithun saw what happened and rebuked the worker. "This woman's eggs are just as important to her as this bridge is to you and me." St. Swithun blessed the poor woman's eggs and they became whole again.

He loved the poor and would never permit them to be abused in any way. He often told those around him that he did not want to be buried inside the church, but wished to be buried outside under the rain where the poor people could walk over his grave. When he died the people obeyed his wish, but they planned to take his body into the Church after a few days. When they went to dig up his grave it began to rain. The men continued to work, but then it began to rain harder, so they decided to wait until the next day. The next day it rained again. The day after that it rained, and it continued to rain everyday until they decided to leave the Bishop's body in the grave outside the Church. That is why people even today say that if it rains on St. Swithun's day that it will rain for forty days after.

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