August 20 – St. Oswin, King

August 17, 2015

St. Oswin

King and martyr, murdered at Gilling, near Richmond, Yorkshire, England, on 20 August, 651, son of Osric, King of Deira in Britain.

Saint OswinOn the murder of his father by Cadwalla in 634, Oswin still quite young was carried away for safety into Wessex, but returned on the death of his kinsman St. Oswald, in 642, either because Oswy had bestowed upon him Deira, one portion of the Kingdom of Northumbria, himself ruling Bernicia, or, as is more probable, because the people of Deira chose him for king in preference to Oswy. Under his sway of seven years, peace, order, and happiness reigned throughout the kingdom. But in the relations between Oswy and Oswin there was apparent peace only, the former was employing every subtlety to bring about his rival’s death. At length Oswy declared an open warfare, and Oswin, unable to meet the superior forces of his adversary, disbanded his army, either from worldly prudence (Bede) or heroic virtue (monk of Tynemouth), and made his way for greater security to Hunwald an eorldoman upon whom he had lately conferred the fief of Gilling. Hunwald promised to conceal him but treacherously betrayed him to Ethelwin, one of Oswy’s officers, and he was murdered. He was buried at Gilling and soon afterwards transferred to Tynemouth, though another account says he was buried at Tynemouth.

Tynemouth Priory from the East, 1845 by John Wilson Carmichael.

Tynemouth Priory from the East, 1845 by John Wilson Carmichael.

The anonymous monk of St. Albans, who in the reign of King Stephen was resident at Tynemouth, and there wrote the saint’s life, says that his memory was forgotten during the Danish troubles, but in 1065 his burial-place was made known by an apparition to a monk named Edmund, and his relics were translated on 11 March, 1100, and again on 20 August, 1103. At the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII there was still a shrine containing the body and vestments of St. Oswin. A portion of his body was preserved as a relic at Durham (cf. Smith, “Bede”, III, xiv). Eanfleda, Oswy’s queen, daughter of St. Edwin, prevailed upon him to found in reparation a monastery at Gilling, some remains of which still exist, though it was destroyed by the Danes. Bede in his “History” (III, xiv) gives a description of his character and features: “most generous to all men and above all things humble; tall of stature and of graceful bearing, with pleasant manner and engaging address”. There is now preserved in the British Museum (Cotton MS. Galba A.5.) a psalter which until the fire of 1731 bore the inscription “Liber Oswini Regis.”


TYNEMOUTH AND CAPGRAVE, Nova Legenda Angliae, ed. HORSTMAN, II (Oxford, 1901), 268; Acta SS., Aug., IV, 63; Surtees Soc. Publ.: Miscellanea Biographica, VIII, 1-59, and Introd. (London, 1834); Lives of English Saints, ed. NEWMAN (London, 1900); RAINE in Dict. of Christ. Biog., s.v.; and BUTLER, Lives of the Saints, III (Baltimore), 287-88.

S. Anselm Parker (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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