Religion and Healing: Miracles and the Shrine of St. Frideswide in the late Twelfth Century

Paul Trafford <paul.trafford [at]>


This is one of the short essays (limited to 5,000 words) that I submitted during the course of my Master's in the Study of Religion at Oxford University, which I completed in October 2009. It is presented here with only minor revisions. I would like to thank everyone who helped me, particularly Prof. Henry Mayr-Harting for encouraging me to engage with this topic, Sr. Benedicta Ward who gave me pertinent advice, particularly on consulting the original manuscript; Prof. Sarah Foot who helped me early on in establishing what might be feasible; Jim Godfrey for conveying an impression of how the shrine might have looked and functioned; Dr. Martha Riddiford for sharing her discussions of healing of the body in the early medieval period; and Dr. Johannes Zachhuber at Trinity College / the Theology Faculty, my tutor, for comments on earlier drafts. I'd like to acknowledge all those not mentioned here who kindly gave me support.

1. Introduction

Looking over Cornmarket, one of Oxford's busiest thoroughfares, is a late Saxon church, St. Michael's at the Northgate. Over the course of a millennium it has seen the passage of numerous pilgrims, congregation and visitors.[1] Inside the church, the North side contains the Lady Chapel, with well-worn wooden chairs facing an altar-piece with three statues – Mary, the mother of Jesus at the centre, flanked on either side by Saints Mildred and Frideswide. At its entrance lies open a book in which one finds prayers in a variety of handwriting styles, ranging from short scribbles to carefully inscribed paragraphs, penned by locals and strangers from afar. In many cases they seek healing, not only physical, but mental, including support for difficult family relationships.

Such expressions of hope, especially the wishes for healing that medical knowledge at the time cannot treat fully, has been a feature throughout St. Michael's history. Where situations are very severe many people have found a need for something else, principally through faith.  Nowadays this might be most commonly expressed as 'mind over matter' or 'faith healing,' but in Medieval times the language was somewhat different – in the absence of much scientific knowledge, people would naturally turn to what they would call 'miracles' where the connection with faith was very strong.

In order to explore the relationships between faith, miracles, and healing in the High Middle Ages in England, this essay will draw on a substantial collection of miracles that an Augustinian Prior by the name of Philip composed in Oxford in the late 12th Century. The miracles are attributed to one of the above-mentioned saints, St. Frideswide, the Patron Saint of Oxford. What do they tell us about the religious practices, the faith at that time and how miracles are related to healing? This essay will seek to explore such questions from theological and religious perspectives, within the particular socio-historical context. It will focus mainly on Prior Philip's own perspective – personal and professional – in nurturing faith in the Oxford community. This should add to and complement existing literature, which has tended to dwell on broader social and historical dimensions.

2. The medieval context of the practice of the cult of St. Frideswide

In order to study the collection, we start by considering some basic concepts and the medieval context concerning faith, healing and miracles.

How 'miracles' were regarded and the rise of the cult of saints

Miracle collections, which became quite numerous in the 12th century, are often quite extensive and detailed, providing a potentially rich seam for exploring medieval beliefs. However, at first sight, the study of miracles may be difficult to approach because it immediately involves grappling with a notion that is quite elusive and difficult to deal with.

A standard Christian definition is as follows:

According to the traditional view, a miracle is a sensible fact (opus sensibile) produced by the special intervention of God for a religious end, transcending the normal order of things usually termed the Law of Nature.
(Cross and Livingstone 1997, 1091).

In theological terms, Swinburne identifies three characteristics of miracles as events: they must be of an extraordinary kind, be brought about by God, and be of religious significance (Swinburne 1989, 6). To be of religious significancemeans that it must be personal: “To be a miracle, an event must contribute significantly toward a holy divine purpose of the world.” More broadly, “... an event will have religious significance if it is a good event and a contribution to or foretaste of the ultimate destiny of the world.” Note especially he adds here: “Thus the healing of a sick person, will, by the Christian view, be of religious significance, since the world's ultimate destiny is, according to the Christian view, a state where evil, including sickness, is no more” (ibid). Thus miraculous healings have long played a key role in Christian traditions.

Yet, when it comes especially to historical interpretation and the roles played by miracles, they may be challenging to our sensibilities. Finucane has suggested as a way forward a view that understands the Medieval context as a world of greater and far more exposed mortality so that given the limited medical knowledge, healings could be regarded as 'miraculous' in a way that would not be so today (Finucane 1975). This is a useful insight, but to understand especially the theological views and beliefs of Medieval Christian practitioners, we adopt a phenomenological approach that suspends contemporary presuppositions. In fact, by reference to theological sources as well as the socio-historical context, we may deduce some understanding of what was meant by 'miracle' by observing the impact it had on their beliefs and actions.

Most analyses of Medieval miracle collections give a central place in theology to St. Augustine of Hippo: Benedicta Ward opens the first chapter in her weighty survey of 'Miracles and the Medieval Mind' with the advice: “The presuppositions behind any thinking about miracles in the Middle Ages are to be found mainly in four works by Augustine of Hippo: De Genesi ad Litteram, De Trinitate, De Utilitate Credendum and De Civitate[2]” (Ward 1987, 3). Focusing on one of these works, De Civitate, we find divine agency as central to Augustine's concept of miracle. Chapter 7 of Book XXI is entitled 'The omnipotence of the Creator is the ground of belief in marvels'; for Augustine there was no clash with nature: “For how can an event be contrary when it happens by the will of God, since the will of the great Creator assuredly is the nature of every created thing?” (Book XXI: Chapter 8). He was also clear about the role of miracles in cultivating faith, stating that “They have become known in order to produce faith; they have become more widely known through the faith they have promoted. “ (Book XXII: Chapter 8) Further, such miracles demonstrated faith. Chapter 9 begins: “What do these miracles attest but the faith which proclaims that Christ rose in the flesh and ascended into heaven with the flesh?”

It may also be noted that St. Augustine sets a precedent in Chapter 8 by contributing a miracle collection of his own, including cases of cancer, gout, and evil spirits, eagerly recording as many as he can against a deadline: “I am constrained by my promise to complete this work … and that means I cannot relate record all the stories of miracles that I know;” (Book 22: Chapter 8). Many of these cures, written in the early 5th century, are mediated through the assumed prayers of a deceased martyr, i.e. a witness who was prepared to die rather than deny their Christian faith.

According to Peter Brown, Book 10 of Augustine's City of God was “redefining the nature of true intermediaries between God and men” who, being more readily identifiable with humans, could bring us closer to God than the angels. This closeness of relationship was pivotal in the subsequent development, individually and in the community until the cult of the saints was the major religious practice in Late Antiquity.[3] This legacy – basing the connection with the divine on human relationships - evidently was long-lasting for: “In the 12th century the cult of the saints (persons considered outstanding in holiness) gained great popularity: resting on the customary relationship of mutual fidelity and aid, the pious offered prayers and gifts in response for support and healing” (Stearns 2001, 192).

Promotion of the Cult of St. Frideswide by the Regular Canons in Oxford

The rise of shrines fuelled the increase in pilgrimage, drawing large numbers, and featured strongly when the Augustinian canons took over St. Frideswide's monastery in Oxford in 1122 and began vigorous developments to establish a greater role (Page 1907, 97-101). Yet, who was St. Frideswide? Although there have yet to be discovered any contemporary accounts, her historicity appears to have been quite well established by John Blair's careful scrutiny of three 12th century manuscripts (Blair 1987,2004). From this we see Frideswide as coming from a well to do Anglo-Saxon family, serving as the first Abbess of an Oxford monastery from the latter half of the 7th century. The monastery was established on the site of which currently stands Christ Church, and there is mention of it in 1004 in an edict by King Aethelred, who granted an endowment for its rebuilding following a fire in 1002.[4]

The qualities conveyed about her include devotion to the psalms from a very early age and in adolescence a desire to retreat from the world, for which the life stories relate: “After her mother's death the religious virgin studied to serve God day and night in vigils and prayers, always striving to forget bodily food, and to absorb spiritual food with all her might.” There is also attributed to St. Frideswide a motto reflecting her single-minded devotion, “Whatever is not God is nothing” (Benedictines of Ramsgate 1921). The life stories attribute many miracles to her during her life, in a most striking example of which she kisses a leper, who is healed immediately (Blair 2004: 39-40).

According to Blair (2004, 10), one of the authors of these life stories is reckoned to have been the 2nd prior, Robert of Cricklade (c. 1141-75). Prior Robert was certainly was familiar with promoting saints as he had composed a book on the miracles of St. Thomas of Canterbury, following his death in 1170 (Page 1907). Prior Philip took over as the 3rd prior and to promote the monastery further, he further elevated the role of St. Frideswide, most notably by arranging for a grand ceremony to translate her purported relics to a new shrine. This took place on 12th February 1180 and was attended by many dignitaries from around the country, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. Probably using his predecessor's work as a model, subsequent to the translation Prior Philip took the opportunity to record a goodly selection of miracles that were reported both before and after the occasion, serving as very useful promotion material for the shrine. Indeed Ward relates how such ceremonies and contingent miraculous occurrences were the basis of the miracle collections of the period, conforming to a certain pattern (Ward 1987, 32). Webb shows patterns of pilgrimage around St. Thomas of Canterbury, which was the hub of the cult of saints at that time, an exemplar for other pilgrimage sites that operated like satellites (Webb 2000, 52-53). It was into this configuration that St. Frideswide's shrine could connect.

It might be asked what influence there was from theologians in Oxford. Certainly there were scholars, but little is known about the theological instruction. Sir Richard Southern wrote in 'The History of the University of Oxford': “The general picture of Oxford from 1135 to 1185 ... is of a town in which – though there must have been schools and scholars – they were not an important part of the community” (Catto 1984, 11). R. M. Thomson indicates some activity by making an argument for adding Serlo of Wilton (Thomson 1999) to a list of nine named persons of that period produced by Henry Mayr-Harting (Wansborough and Marett-Crosby 1997), but it's not substantial enough to clearly indicate any influence of the mind of the Prior or most of the pilgrims to the shrine.

As author of the miracle collections, all events were recorded through the lens of Prior Philip – doubtless both personal and 'professional.' Further, the registrar was himself constrained by what was reported to him – directly by those who experienced miracles first hand and from others who were witnesses. Evidently news spread and the reports became subject to wider scrutiny: for instance, we see in the case of Emelina from Eddington (MF 31[5], detailed below) that the likes of bishops took an interest in cases.

Given how quickly the translation was arranged, coming early in Prior Philip's tenure, it's evident how efficient he was. Yet, it's not perfunctory: as well as managing to persuade temporal and spiritual powers in society to gather, he prepared the written records with some subtlety. Latin literacy even among Medieval clergy was variable, yet the record is not dry – Prior Philip is not only meticulous in creating such a substantial and orderly record, but also puts into the text some of his own character, opinion, literary flourishes, and towards the end his own testimony, a form of participant observation. So the record could well have been used to share with other members of clergy, to rouse them in their devotions, fill them with awe. All this, whilst mindful at the same time that such a process was necessary to formally gain recognition of sainthood for St. Frideswide and thus boost the reputation of Oxford's religiosity.

3. Examination of Narratives in the Miracle Collection

Introduction to the Miracle Collection

Prior Philip's record contains 110 numbered sections, most of which are narratives describing cases of healings. They articulate not only the nature of the healings but are orchestrated quite deliberately overall to convey a sense of drama and performance, including a grand finale. Mayr-Harting suggests that the selection of miracles also reflects the catchment of the shrine – custodian communities attracting the sympathies of particular groups of people (Mary-Harting 1984, 202). His doctoral student, Simon Yarrow, continued the exploration along these lines for the cult of saints in general, by investigating the social and institutional circumstances behind the cult promotion, particularly as promulgated by events at Canterbury (Yarrow 2006). With regard to Frideswide in particular, he maps out identified place names, highlighting the importance of the navigable waterways.

The narratives record many types of healings, echoing those in the New Testament: cases of blindness, deafness, loss of speech were quite numerous as were various swellings, paralysis and other ways in which the use of limbs had been lost. In addition there were healings for leprosy, various swellings of limbs, paralysis, dropsy, intestinal complaints, constipation, fever, sciatica, ulcers, arthritis, stones, mental derangement. We can look at the healings in various ways. Mayr-Harting makes the case for the healing process as largely psychosomatic – especially given the public environment, the powerful associations of sacred place, and the presence of gathered crowds (Mayr-Harting 1984: Chapter 4). Metzler supports this with reference to occurrences at other shrines, such as St. Swithun's in Worcester, and extends this analysis with the notion of private healings with medicos (Metzler 2005, 180).

However, Prior Philip's message was theological: the record finishes with the restoration of the life of a boy – at 1,000 words it is the longest narrative, with clear allusions to the promise of eternal life through the Resurrection of Jesus.

Sample Narratives

Whereas previous studies have been largely concerned with the collection as a whole, dipping into a large number of individual narratives to illustrate social facets, here we concentrate on just two narratives and use them as a vehicle for discussing mainly the religious dimension and especially how they reflected Prior Philip's theological views.

Example 1: Healing of Body: Physical [MF 9]

This is the case of a girl called Adelitia, who has her eye-sight restored.

Her mother concerned for her daughter's welfare, had initially tried a local medico even though it was a considerable financial burden, but it was in vain (pro salute filiæ medicos consulit, frustra id modicum quod habebat in medicos expendens...). With the limited and expensive health service, miracle cures would have seemed an attractive proposition: they made very few financial demands. Generally, occupations were much more active and physical than our predominantly sedentary occupations, so could severely affect one's participation on society.

Martha Riddiford highlights how in the early Middle Ages such impairment was prominent not only outwardly, but was also perceived internally where imperfect body is connected with sin. Thus external physical symptoms suggested deeper causes rooted in one's moral conduct. In particular, Riddiford analyses 'body and soul' motifs of the 9th and 10th centuries, drawing on philosophical reflections of Alfred, himself influenced by Augustine, who appeared very self-conscious of infirmity. She notes that “the infirm body appears most regularly in the miracles performed by Jesus or one of the apostles during which they forgave sins as an accompaniment to their cures of the body” (Riddiford 2007, 283).

As Riddiford reflects, deformities and other impairments could encourage the sufferer to meditate on his or her sins and encourage greater religious devotion. (285) The view of body as an instrument of sin was further embedded in later Medieval society through the practices of penance, especially as they became sacramental under the increasing power of the Church during the 12th and the 13th century,[6] who were keen to ensure that forgiveness was appropriately authorised. Penitential rites were severe, yet appear to have been generally endured, which may help to explain the extent of sustained efforts to seek healing.

As the collection indicates, journeys of even a few miles would have been a major effort and cures were often not instant. Considerable faith was expressed through prayers and pilgrimage, often involving stays of several days in uncomfortable conditions. Prior Philip would have been conscious that the church and shrine especially were absolutely vital not only as the target of his promotion, but requiring results – otherwise the prosperity of the church could be adversely affected. It would have been in his best interests then, given the uncertainty of such cures, to promote a deeper underlying message of faith in God, who would bring consolation, and the means to merit such help.

Thus the Prior records that as Adelitia's health deteriorated, the mother, probably having exhausted all other possibilities, finally had recourse to the 'asylum of divine mercy' (Convolat demum mater ad divinæ miserationis asilum).

He then describes how she spent many days at church, praying most devoutly for her daughter's health (pro ejus salute devotissime supplicans). In sustaining her fervent act of worship (in what appears a liminal transition) she accesses a stage of divine help:

Nec tædium parit dilatio, spes diffidentiam relegat, perseverat impetendo fides, ut humani defectum auxilii divina suppleret potentia.

And the delay did not bring weariness, [for] hope eased the doubts, her faith persisted through intense praying, so that divine power could make up for the inadequacy of human help.

Prior Philip would have been keen to emphasize the distinction between the human and divine, a gap that could be bridged by faith alone. As though to emphasize the gulf, he reinforces the need for sustained prayer:

Nec repulsam passa est devotio, desiderantem rei desideratæ consolatur effectus

And her devotion was unyielding, as longing for what she longed for had a consoling effect.

The Prior records the climax: with the girl prostrate in prayer, the catarrh is suddenly removed and recovery follows swiftly:

subito tota ciliorum gravedine tamquam manu scalpente detersa, tumor paulisper resedit, videndique perfecte recepit officium. Profluebat autem diutius ex oculis sanies, et non multo post interjecto tempore, sic divinæ manus beneficio curata est, ut in ea nulla prorsus ægritudinis pristinæ remanerent vestigia.

Suddenly it was as if the whole catarrh of her eyelids was surgically erased by a hand, the swelling shortly subsided, and she was re-installed into the capacity of seeing perfectly. Moreover, pus was continually flowing out of the eyes, and not much later, she was cured by the kindness of the divine hand, in such a way that there remained in her absolutely no vestiges of the original sickness.

Here Prior Philip employs the medical analogy in the use of scalpente, and in contrast to the failure of human attempts, the divine hand is thoroughly effective in its medical intervention.

We see this narrative is replete with emphases on faith. Such an account could be used to encourage others in the prayer life, to develop their faith, not to give in. A lay woman in that period may well have been regarded with condescension by members of the priory community, so the example of her being able to overcome such obstacles might well have stirred a response to energetic practice.

Example 2: Healing of Mind: Psychological [MF 31]

In this story an adolescent girl by the name of Emelina storms out of her home one night and tries to commit suicide by jumping into the water near a mill. She ends up passing underneath its wheel and is eventually fished out by the miller, who was warned in a dream. Then gradually struck dumb, in May 1180 (about 3 months after the translation) she is taken by her mother and brother to St. Frideswide's church and the shrine. However, after spending several nights there in prayer without obvious benefit, the mother drags her homeward until she stumbles, at which point she starts to recover some speech. Three days later, fully speaking, she is able to clearly recount the preceding events to Bishop John of Norwich.

At about 500 words in length, this narrative is longer than most and Prior Philip uses a number of techniques to appeal to the reader or audience. First, it may be noted how he makes use of the tenses, especially the present tense: “in tantam devenit amentiam, ut ... manibus propriis mortem sibi vellet ascire” (she becomesso far out of her mind, that ... she wants to commit suicide [literally: “take upon herself death with her own hands.”]). This suggests more than a mere event log, but instruction, probably to the others in the community, as if to say, “This is how the story begins...”

He goes on to narrate (in the perfect tense) her approaching the water's edge:

Nocte igitur domum matris clanculo egressa, licet funestum haberet propositum, signo tamen crucis frontem armavit, et ad aquam vicinam cui Keneta nomen est properavit.

So by night she went clandestinely out of her mother's house and although she had a deadly proposition, she nevertheless resolutely made the sign of the cross on her forehead, and went hurriedly to the nearby Kennet water.

Perhaps Prior Philip wants us to think that signing herself had become something of a habit in times of trial, reflecting an aspect of her faith, contrasted with the madness of her intent:

Cum itaque suggestione diabolicæ pravitatis seducta, super ripam staret,

“And so, having been seduced by the suggestion of diabolical depravity, as she stood on the bank, ..” (The suggestion is that she was possessed).

et submersione vitam infelicem finire proponeret, prius tamen salutationem angelica voce beatæ et gloriosæ Dei Genitrici factam, prout noverat ore depromsit:

... and had the intention of putting an end to her unhappy life by drowning herself, nevertheless she first gave salutation in an angelic voice to the happy and glorious Mother of God, pronouncing it exactly as she had got to know it:

As above, this suggests deeply habitual practice of her faith, which as Yarrow surmises, Prior Philip regarded as life-saving (Yarrow 2006). As if to promote such good habits, the prior mentions that just before diving in she makes the sign of the cross again. She's then taken downstream by the force of the current, but subsequently gets stuck where some land juts out.

At this point the story switches to the miller and there is a heightened sense of action with the use of the present continuous tense.

Molendinarius vero nomine Alvredus, in domo sua quæ paululum a molendino distabat quiescens, in somnis admonitus est, ut ad molendinum festinans, quod in aqua reperiret, mox extraheret.

[Meanwhile] A miller named Alfred is resting in his house, which was not far from the mill. Having been warned in his sleep, he is hastening to the mill, to quickly rescue whatever he finds in the water.

The narrative continues in the present tense until he achieves the goal of his dream:

Nec mora: expergefactus a somno, illuc properat, puellam obstupescens invenit,

Without delay, awakened from his sleep, he hurries there and is stunned to find the girl...

Subsequently she loses her ability to speak, a condition which carries on into May with Prior Philip attributing this to her mental condition (et usque ad mensis Maii tempora, in ipsa mentis alienatione perdurans, muta permansit.) So she gets taken to St. Frideswide’s tomb and prays there until, exhausted, she falls asleep. A second dream is related in which she is advised to carry on in prayer, with the assurance that she would receive the care of St. Mary and thence restoration of health.

The emphasis here is on seeking saintly intermediaries who can intercede on people's behalf. When she has literally exhausted other possibilities, it is to the divine that she is to have recourse and we are informed that she engages in this prayer for 4 or 5 days. However, being speechless, she can't easily communicate her vision to her mother, who gets impatient and drags her home, arguing that getting married has the same virtue as service to the Almighty (persuadens ubique equaliter omnipotentis jugere virtutem.)

Once again, the situation looks forlorn, but as she reluctantly follows her mother, who is forcing her along, suddenly we are told that through divine compassion the girl's footsteps are accelerated. (cum repente divina miseratione gressus puellæ propediti sunt.) She comes crashing to the ground, exhausted again, but this time as she comes around she starts to babble, at first unintelligibly, but gradually more coherently and after three days she's fully recovered.

The account makes plain that she has regained not only physical healing but mental stability as she recounts the details of her experience to Bishop John of Norwich; having been possessed, she was now in possession of her body and mind. Thus restored we can imagine Prior Philip being very pleased to relate that she then dedicated herself to the service of the church. It may explain the almost sympathetic tone, even to Emelina's wish to commit suicide, though equally it may indicate compassion, in keeping with the Rule of St. Augustine – to hate the sin, but love the sinner.[7] However, the intention to destroy one's life is not condoned for the intent is described as diabolical.

It may be speculated that this was purely an evasive manoeuvre: faced with the prospect of unwanted marriage, Mayr-Harting offers that: “For Emelina, St. Frideswide's shrine offered an alternative authority to the parental” (Mayr-Harting 1984, 198-9). Yarrow also recounts this story to highlight the social predicament of young women and finishes by speculating that such anxieties were linked to her changing status in society (Yarrow 2005, 184).

The experience at the church those few days was evidently strongly influential: the mother, daughter and brother spent several days in and around the shrine, would have met other pilgrims, and heard stories of other healings. The daughter might have learnt more the life story of St. Frideswide, particularly how she was able to make up her own mind and request that her father let her run his monastery and it might have touched the daughter. The motivation could well have been mixed: freedom from society ills as described by Mayr-Harting and freedom to follow a religious vocation. In any case, as Mayr-Harting suggests, she could be held up as an advert for the community (202) and perhaps her stay was not fleeting – as Prior Philip made this record some while after the event.

Yarrow mentions: “Philip makes it clear that she was only saved because she had recited a Hail Mary prior to throwing herself into the millstream. The miracle was thus credited both to Frideswide and her co-dedicatee, St. Mary.” Indeed the prior was consistent in fulfilling his intentions to show that such healings were merited by the saints, especially St. Frideswide, for the glorification of God, as he had set out to do.

4. Conclusions

This essay has offered some glimpses of how the miracle collection of St. Frideswide can be illuminated by focusing on the religious aspects, in this case by concentrating on how Prior Philip promoted the cult of St. Frideswide according to his theological outlook. The fact that St. Frideswide's continued to act as a focal point for religious life in Oxford until the Reformation may be seen as testimony to the fruits of his efforts.

This work could be extended to other narratives and deepened through more extensive theological analysis, perhaps by closer comparison with Augustine's 'City of God' and the accounts of miracles in the Old and New Testaments. Given the value ascribed to miracle collections for many insights into medieval society, a full English translation for the miracle collection appears overdue. In fact, as mentioned above in the history of the University, the miracle collection offers one of the few glimpses into the scholarly life; there may be further hints on fuller examination of the text.

It is evident that such collections in general, which contain rich descriptions of medieval religious beliefs and experiences, have largely been analysed from a historical point of view. By conducting further research that gives more attention to religious perspectives whilst being informed by the others a fuller picture should emerge of Medieval minds.




1. The source material for the miracle collection was the online edition of the printed transcription in Acta Sanctorum (details below). For the two narratives, manual checks were made with MS Digby 177.

2. The Web addresses were last checked on 29 May 2009.

Source Materials

Augustine of Hippo, 1467 [426]. City of God.
Translated from Latin by Bettenson, H., Knowles, D. ed., 1972. Pelican.

Philip, Prior, 118?. Miracula S. Frideswidae In: MS. Digby 177. 
Printed in Acta Sanctorum. Oct. VIII, Dies 19, 568-589 S. Frideswida, Virgo Oxoniae in Anglia, Appendix ad Acta S. Frideswidae.
Available at: Acta Sanctorum: Full Text Database, © ProQuest Information and Learning Limited (Chadwyk Healy)


Secondary Literature

Benedectine Monks of St. Augustine's Abbey, Ramsgate. 1921. Book of the Saints, A&C Black Ltd.

Blair, John, 1987. Saint Frideswide Reconsidered. In: Oxoniensia LII, pp. 71–127.

Blair, John & Lindsey, Kathleen (illustrator), 2004. Saint Frideswide: Patron of Oxford: the Earliest Texts.  2nd edition, Perpetua.

Brown, Peter, 1981. The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity. University of Chicago Press.

Catto, J.I. & Evans, T.A.R. eds., 1984. The History of the University of Oxford: Volume 1: The Early Oxford Schools, Clarendon Press.

Cross, F.L. and Livingstone, E.A. eds., 1997. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd edition, Oxford University Press.

Dodd, Anne ed., 2003. Oxford Before the University: The Late Saxon and Norman archaeology of the Thames Crossing, the defences and the town. Oxford Archaeological Unit.

Finucane, R.C., 1975. The Use and Abuse of Medieval Miracles, History, 60 (198), pp. 1-10.

Mayr-Harting, H.M., 1985. Functions of a Twelfth-Century Shrine: the miracles of St. Frideswide. In: Mayr-Harting, H. & Moore, R.I. eds., Studies in Medieval History presented to R.H.C. Davies, London. Continuum.

Mayr-Harting, Henry, 1997. The role of Benedictine abbeys in the development of Oxford as a centre of legal learning. In: Wansborough H. and Marett-Crosby. A. Eds.  Benedictines in Oxford, Darton, Longman and Todd.

Metzler, Irina, 2005. Disability in Medieval Europe: Thinking about Physical Impairment During the High Middle Ages.  Routledge.

Page, William ed.,1907. Houses of Augustinian canons: The priory of St Frideswide, Oxford. In: History of the County of Oxford: Volume 2, Victoria County History, pp. 97-101.
Available at:

Riddiford, Martha, 2007. Social exclusion from early medieval Wessex. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Sheffield.

Stearns, Peter N., Langer, William L. eds., 2001. The Encyclopedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, 6th edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Swinburne Richard ed., 1989. Miracles. New York: MacMillan.

Thomson, R.M., 1999. Serlo of Wilton and the Schools of Oxford, Medium Aevum, 68(1), pp. 1-12.

Ward, Benedicta, 1987. Miracles and the Medieval Mind: Theory, Record and Event, 1000-1215. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Webb, Diana, 2000. Pilgrimage in Medieval England, Continuum.

Yarrow, Simon. Saints and their communities: miracle stories in twelfth century England. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006.


[1] See e.g. (Dodd 2003, 41) which cites an entry for the church in the Domesday book of 1086 and archaeological evidence indicating dates for the tower in the range 1010-1060.

[2] These are in English: Literal Commentary on Genesis, The Trinity, The Usefulness of Believing, and  City of God

[3] Brown doesn't give explicit date ranges, though indicates Gregory of Tours as a late figure, who died shortly before the end of the 6th Century.   There appears to be no consensus; the period given by the Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity is roughly 250-750CE.

[4] Oxford Today Volume 15, Number 1.

[5] 'MF n' is used to denote miracle narrative number n in St. Fridewide's collection.

[6] Canon 21 of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 made it an obligation of every Christian to confess at least once a year to their own priest.

[7] See e.g. the Rule of the Augustinian Friars in Britain:


Other essays in Christianity:

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