Cathedral Treasure, Finalist Number 2
Venerated place of pilgrimage and prayer to a healing saint
The Shrine of St Frideswide at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford
There are 10 finalists in our Cathedral Treasure competition. You can vote for your favourite and you’ll be in with a chance of winning a copy of Janet Gough’s brilliant Deans’ Choice: Cathedral Treasures of England and Wales.
Vote for your favourite here.
Since cathedrals are sermons in stone, the most valuable treasure of Christ Church is ‘the stone that was rejected which became the cornerstone’ (Psalm 118: 22 and Acts 4: 11).
That stone is the Shrine to St Frideswide, which would have housed the reliquary of this early Saxon saint. Frideswide was the abbess of her monastery until her death around ad 727. She was buried in the abbey, and her shrine quickly became associated with healings and cures.
Oxford was almost destroyed by the violence that engulfed the city during the St Brice’s Day Massacre of 1002. In 1180 Frideswide’s remains were moved into a new shrine in the monastery church (now Christ Church Cathedral), as witnessed by Henry II (r.1135–1154). Frideswide was now Patron Saint of the City and University of Oxford.
Frideswide’s current shrine dates from around 1289 and would once have been gilded with precious metals and jewels. It was subsequently destroyed and stripped of everything valuable – under Reformation-era legislation that abolished ‘superstitious memorials’ – but the shrine endured these ravages and was partially restored under Mary I in 1588.
The original sculpting remains largely intact, and the carvings of foliage carry a wealth of spiritual and medicinal associations. The shrine also features several faces, including Frideswide herself (partial, and probably mutilated in 1538), companion nuns of the saint and characters featured in her illuminating Saxon saga.
Frideswide’s stripped shrine and Matthew 6: 19–21 remind us, ‘do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth … but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … for where your treasure is, there your heart will be.’
Source : Deans’ Choice: Cathedral Treasures of England and Wales, Janet Gough.
Take at look at all the finalists and vote for your favourite here or tap / click the image below.