IT’S a great week for saints.
Monday was the feast of Saint Nunctus and Saint Alodia, Tuesday was dedicated to St Theodoret and today (Wednesday) is Saint Proclus’s day.
Tomorrow we remember Saint Chrysanthus, it’s the feast of Saint Evaristus on Friday and none of you will have forgotten that it’s Saint Frumentius’s day on Saturday.
Which makes our Huntingdonshire saints seem tame by comparison. We’ve got towns named Saint Ives and Saint Neots, but so has Cornwall – and our West Country friends can also boast the place-names of Saint Blazey, Saint Buryan, Saint Issey and Saint Veep. In Pembrokeshire you can visit Saint Dogwells and Saint Elvis.
Most Huntingdonshire parish churches are dedicated to run-of-the-mill saints, but there’s a scatter of more unusual ones.
Some of the saints are French, a relic of the Norman Conquest. Literally a relic, as William the Conqueror’s Norman knights may have brought bones of their local saints to England with them, to endow the churches in their new home.
Water Newton Church, for example, is dedicated to Saint Remigius – very unusual in this country, but well known in France as Saint Rémy. He was bishop of Reims in the 5th century and among the French noblemen he converted to Christianity was Saint Leonard, who has church dedications at Catworth and Southoe.
The bridge chapel at Saint Ives is dedicated to another French bishop, Saint Leger, who also gave his name to the family who started the famous horse race. A few years ago someone had the bright idea of asking the Jockey Club for funds to help restore the chapel. We got a frosty letter referring us to Doncaster racecourse.
Old Weston Church is dedicated to a Saxon bishop, Saint Swithin. The floor of the church is still strewn with hay each year on the Sunday after Saint Swithin’s day (July 15). It is said that’s because the villagers marked the saint’s day by buying new boots, and the hay was to muffle the squeaking!
Hemingford Abbots Church shares its dedication to St Margaret of Antioch with another Saint Margaret’s Church – the one at Westminster, the parish church for the Houses of Parliament.
How very apt – for Westminster of course, not for Hemingford – that St Margaret is the patron saint of people wrongly accused of crimes they didn’t commit.