Introduction to St Frideswide of Oxford

 

St Frideswide, the Patron Saint of Oxford city, Diocese and university, was a Saxon Saint of the 8th century. Her name is connected with an early monastery that pre-dated the present Oxford cathedral.

 

Documentary evidence from the Dark Ages is rare. Manuscripts and books from her monastery must have existed at one time but they were lost when her early church was destroyed by fire in 1002, during the turbulent Viking period.

With little hard evidence to illuminate her there has been a lot of confusion as to who she was, how she lived, the miracles she performed, the early Cult, and her influence on the development of Oxford.

 

 An eminent historian, in an interesting moment in 1935, even suggested that hers was ‘a meagre legend’, which many took to imply that Frideswide was not worth taking seriously and had probably never even existed. This has stifled the research and study of her life, and even today there are still academics and clergy who doubt her significance.

 

This website focuses on what evidence we do have. Documents still exist from the 12th century Augustinian Priory of St Frideswide, and archaeological reports from around Oxford city shed light on the Saxon town. The deliberations of antiquarians and historians also fill in some of the history of the monastery after Frideswide’s death.

 

It is only from material like this that it is possible to identify what is reasonable to accept about her, and what can safely be assumed about her life and legacy.

 

 

Some References

Monasticon Anglicanum, William Dugdale

Antiquities of the City of Oxford, Anthony Wood, Edited by Andrew Clark, 1890

Cartulary of the Monastery of St Frideswide at Oxford, Rev Spencer Wigram, 1896

Early History of Oxford, James Parker 1884-5

‘Frideswide Reconsidered’ in Oxoniensia 52, 1987, Prof John Blair

De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum, William of Malmesbury

Oxoniensia 53 1989 various articles

Other pamphlets, books and documents as recorded throughout

The information website about St Frideswide of Oxford

This website is under development and further information pages will be added in due course