St. Frideswide of Oxford
The patron of Oxford and daughter of a Mercian subking, Frideswide was
born in the mid-VII Century. She lived at a double-monastery, which her
family, who donated money for the establishment of several churches and
monasteries, had endowed. One legend says that a neighboring king,
Aethelbald, planned to seduce her and was, by her prayers to be preserved,
blinded. When he repented, her prayers on his behalf cured him. Another
legend says that King Algar hoped to marry her after her father died; she
refused the king, and he planned to have her kidnapped and put in a
brothel. Through her prayers to be protected, his men were blinded, and
when all had repented, her prayers on their behalf cured them. From these
stories arose another legend: that English kings, Henry II in particular,
avoided Oxford, lest they be blinded.
After the death of Frideswide in the early VIII Century, her monastery
became a prominent landmark in Oxford. Danes destroyed it c. 1000, and
Augustinian canons restored it c. 1122. Thomas Wolsey suppressed the
monastery in 1546, and in 1549, the Church of England dropped her feast,
although Oxford continued to celebrate it. In the 1850's, Edward
Burne-Jones created a series of stained glass windows that depicted the
life of Frideswide, and in 1890, her tomb was restored. Christ Church,
Oxford, stands on the site of her monastery.
Karen Rae Keck
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