Saint Edburg

Reredos Figure

St. Edburg is the patron saint of the parish church, she was also the patron saint of Bicester Priory. But which St. Edburg she was is a bit of a mystery. There have been several Saxon saints bearing this name (often spelt 'Eadburg' or 'Edburga') and it is impossible to make a certain identification of which is the saint of Bicester.

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It was thought for many years that she was St. Edburg of Winchester, the daughter of King Edward the Elder and Granddaughter of King Alfred the Great. We know this St. Edburg's fame spread as she is remembered today in a beautiful stained glass window in Pershore Abbey, Worcestershire.

But it is more likely that our saint was more local. The most likely candidate may have been a daughter of King Penda of Mercia. He, although pagan himself, had several children who were Christians. It is also possible that she was the daughter of one of Penda's sons, Wulfhere, who became the first Christian king of Mercia. She could also have been a daughter of Frewald (or Fredewall), another local prince.

It is generally agreed that this Edburg was born in Quarrendon in the 7th century and was the sister of Edith (Eadith) with whom she founded a nunnery near Aylesbury. Edburg became the abbess and either trained St. Osyth (Osith) (St. Osyth near Clacton is named after her) or was her aunt. Some legends of St. Osyth suggest that it was Edburg and Edith who found her in a stream after she had drowned three days previously and witnessed her return to life.

Edburg died around 650 AD. We don't know where she was originally buried but her relics were eventually brought to Bicester Priory, where many pilgrims came to visit her shrine and her holy well.

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During the Reformation in 1536 the Sheriff of Oxford, Sir Simon Harcourt, was tasked with destroying Bicester Priory’s church. The building was demolished but he saved the shrine and moved it to St. Michael's Church in Stanton Harcourt. In the late 1940's Rev. Cowland-Cooper attempted to restore the shrine to Bicester, but he was unsuccessful and it remains in Stanton Harcourt to this day.

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