Friday, 27 August 2010


The church at which my friends were received in Peterborough was The Sacred Heart and St Oswald. I was delighted to find a modern church which by its dedication revived an ancient devotion in the city.

The story can be found in St Bede's Ecclesiastical History of how St Oswald, King of Northumbria 633-641 not only sent out the remains of a feast to the beggars outside, but ordered that the silver plate on which the food was carried be also broken up and given to the poor. His guest, St Aidan, who sensed that Oswald was not long for this world, was so moved that he took the king's right arm and blessed it, with the prayer that it should never decay. When, not long after Oswald was killed in battle at Oswestry by King Penda of Mercia his corpse was hacked to pieces by the victors and displayed. His head eventually returned to the north and is now in the coffin of St Cuthbert at Durham, carried thither by the monks of Lindisfarne when they fled the Vikings. Other relics went to Bardney abbey in Lincolnshire.

St Owald's right arm, incorrupt as a result of St Aidan's prayer, eventually came to Peterborough, and was the principal relic of the abbey. It was kept in a chapel in the south transept of the monastic church, and still venerated by pilgrims, until the dissolution of the abbey in 1539 and the later establishment of the diocese in 1541. What happened to the Holy Arm thereafter appears unrecorded. To get some idea of such a royal relic look at my recent post about the "Holy Right" of St Stephen of Hungary here.

St Oswald,
pray for us!

Photo: De Cura Animarum

In the modern church hall there were pictures from a parish pilgrimage to Lindisfarne and Durham, so there is clearly an awareness of the continuing link with St Oswald and a wish to share that with parishioners.

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