lundi 29 février 2016

Saint OSWALD de WORCESTER, moine bénédictin et archevêque

Saint Oswald et l'abbé Eadnoth de Ramsey,

Saint Oswald

Évêque de Worcester puis d'York ( 992)

Il servit le Christ comme chanoine de Winchester, puis comme moine de Saint Benoît à Fleury-sur-Loire et revint à Winchester comme évêque puis archevêque d'York.

À Worcester en Angleterre, l’an 992, saint Oswald, évêque. D’abord chanoine de Winchester, puis moine à Fleury, il fut placé ensuite sur le siège de Worcester, et, quelque temps après, il eut encore à diriger l’Église d’York. Il établit la Règle de saint Benoît dans de nombreux monastères et fut un maître affable, joyeux et savant. (éloge le 28 février omis les années bissextiles)

Martyrologe romain

St. Oswald

Archbishop of York, d. on 29 February, 992. Of Danish parentage, Oswald was brought up by his uncle Odo, Archbishop of Canterbury, and instructed by Fridegode. For some time he was dean of the house of the secular canons at Winchester, but led by the desire of a stricter life he entered the Benedictine Monastery of Fleury, where Odo himself had received the monastic habit. He was ordained there and in 959 returned to England betaking himself to his kinsman Oskytel, then Archbishop of York. He took an active part in ecclesiastical affairs at York until St. Dunstan procured his appointment to the See of Worcester. He was consecrated by St. Dunstan in 962. Oswald was an ardent supporter of Dunstan in his efforts to purify the Church from abuses, and aided by King Edgar he carried out his policy of replacing by communities the canons who held monastic possessions. Edgar gave the monasteries of St. Albans, Ely, and Benfleet to Oswald, who established monks at Westbury (983), Pershore (984), at Winchelcumbe (985), and at Worcester, and re-established Ripon. But his most famous foundation was that of Ramsey in Huntingdonshire, the church of which was dedicated in 974, and again after an accident in 991. In 972 by the joint action of St. Dunstan and Edgar, Oswald was made Archbishop of York, and journeyed to Rome to receive the pallium from John XIII. He retained, however, with the sanction of the pope, jurisdiction over the diocese of Worcester where he frequently resided in order to foster his monastic reforms (Eadmer, 203). On Edgar's death in 975, his work, hitherto so successful, received a severe check at the hands of Elfhere, King of Mercia, who broke up many communities. Ramsey, however, was spared, owing to the powerful patronage of Ethelwin, Earl of East Anglia. Whilst Archbishop of York, Oswald collected from the ruins of Ripon the relics of the saints, some of which were conveyed to Worcester. He died in the act of washing the feet of the poor, as was his daily custom during Lent, and was buried in the Church of St. Mary at Worcester. Oswald used a gentler policy than his colleague Ethelwold and always refrained from violent measures. He greatly valued and promoted learning amongst the clergy and induced many scholars to come from Fleury. He wrote two treatises and some synodal decrees. His feast is celebrated on 28 February.


Historians of York in Rolls Series, 3 vols.; see Introductions by RAINE. The anonymous and contemporary life of the monk of Ramsey, I, 399-475, and EADMER, Life and Miracles, II, 1-59 (also in P.L., CLIX) are the best authorities; the lives by SENATUS and two others in vol. II are of little value; Acta SS., Feb., III, 752; Acta O.S.B. (Venice, 1733), saec. v, 728; WRIGHT, Biog. Lit., I (London, 1846), 462; TYNEMOUTH and CAPGRAVE, ed. HORSTMAN, II (Oxford, 1901), 252; HUNT, Hist. of the English Church from 597-1066 (London, 1899); IDEM in Dict. of Nat. Biog., s.v.; LINGARD, Anglo-Saxon Church (London, 1845).

Parker, Anselm. "St. Oswald." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 29 Feb. 2016 <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Herman F. Holbrook. Saint Oswald, and all ye holy Bishops and Confessors, pray for us.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

St. Oswald, Bishop of Worcester and Archbishop of York

From his life, written by Eadmer; also from Florence of Worcester, William of Malmesbury, and, above all, the elegant and accurate author of the History of Ramsey, published by the learned Mr. Gale, p. 385. The life of this saint, written by Folcard, abbot of Thorney, in 1068, Wharton thinks not extant. Mabillon doubts whether it be not that which we have in Capgrave and Surius. See also Portiforium S. Oswaldi Archiep. Eborac. Codex MS. crassus in 8vo. exaratus circa annum 1064, in Bennet College, Cambridge, mentioned by Waneley, Catal. p. 110.

A.D. 992

ST. OSWALD was nephew of St. Odo, archbishop of Canterbury, and to Oskitell, bishop first of Dorcester, afterwards of York. He was educated by St. Odo, and made dean of Winchester; but passing into France, took the monastic habit at Fleury. Being recalled to serve the church, he succeeded St. Dunstan in the see of Worcester about the year 959. He shone as a bright star in this dignity, and established a monastery of monks at Westberry, a village in his diocess. He was employed by duke Aylwin in superintending his foundation of the great monastery of Ramsey, in an island formed by marshes and the River Ouse in Huntingdonshire, in 972. St. Oswald was made archbishop of York in 974, and he dedicated the church of Ramsey under the names of the Blessed Virgin, St. Benedict, and all holy virgins. Nothing of this rich mitered abbey remains standing except an old gate-house, and a neglected statue of the founder, Aylwin, with keys and a ragged staff in his hand to denote his office; for he was cousin to the glorious king Edgar, the valiant general of his armies, and the chief judge and magistrate of the kingdom, with the title of alderman of England, and half king, as the historian of Ramsey usually styles him. 1 St. Oswald was almost always occupied in visiting his diocess, preaching without intermission, and reforming abuses. He was a great encourager of learning and learned men. St. Dunstan obliged him to retain the see of Worcester with that of York. Whatever intermission his function allowed him he spent at St. Mary’s, a church and monastery of Benedictins, which he had built at Worcester, where he joined with the monks in their monastic exercises. This church from that time became the cathedral. The saint, to nourish in his heart the sentiments of humility and charity, had everywhere twelve poor persons at his table, whom he served, and also washed and kissed their feet. After having sat thirty-three years he fell sick at St. Mary’s in Worcester, and having received the Extreme-unction and Viaticum, continued in prayer, repeating often, “Glory be to the Father,” &c., with which words he expired amidst his monks, on the 29th of February, 992. His body was taken up ten years after and enshrined by Adulph his successor, and was illustrated by miracles. It was afterwards translated to York on the 15th of October, which day was appointed his principal festival.

St. Oswald made quick progress in the path of perfect virtue, because he studied with the utmost earnestness to deny himself and his own will, listening attentively to that fundamental maxim of the Eternal Truth which St. Bennet, of whose holy order he became a bright light, repeats with great energy. This holy founder declares in the close of his rule, that, He who desires to give himself up to God, must trample all earthly things under his feet, renounce everything that is not God, and die to all earthly affections, so as to attain to a perfect disengagement and nakedness of heart, that God may fill and entirely possess it, in order to establish therein the kingdom of his grace and pure love for ever. And in his prologue he cries out aloud, that he addresses himself only to him who is firmly resolved in all things to deny his own will, and to hasten with all diligence to arrive at his heavenly kingdom.

Note 1. The titles of honour amongst our Saxon ancestors were, Etheling, prince of the blood: chancellor, assistant to the king in giving judgments: alderman, or ealderman, (not earldorman, as Rapin Thoyras writes this word in his first edition,) governor or viceroy. It is derived from the word Ald or old, like senator in Latin. Provinces, cities, and sometimes wapentakes, had their alderman to govern them, determine law-suits, judge criminals, &c. This office gave place to the title of earl, which was merely Danish, and introduced by Canute. Sheriffe or she-reeve, was the deputy of the alderman, chosen by him, sat judge in some courts, and saw sentence executed; hence he was called vicecomes. Heartoghan signified, among our Saxon ancestors, generals of armies, or dukes. Hengist, in the Saxon chronicle, is heartogh, such were the dukes appointed by Constantine the Great, to command the forces in the different provinces of the Roman Empire. These titles began to become hereditary with the offices or command annexed under Pepin and Charlemagne, and grew more frequent by the successors of these princes granting many hereditary fiefs to noblemen, to which they annexed titular dignities. Fiefs were an establishment of the Lombards, from whom the emperors of Germany, and the kings of France, borrowed this custom, and with it the feodal laws, of which no mention is found in the Roman code. Titles began frequently to become merely honorary about the time of Otho I. in Germany.

  Reeve among the English Saxons was a steward. The bishop’s reeve was a bishop’s steward for secular affairs, attending in his court. Thanes, i. e. servants, were officers of the crown whom the king recompensed with lands, sometimes to descend to their posterity, but always to be held of him with some obligation of service, homage, or acknowledgment. There were other lords of lands and vassals, who enjoyed the title of thanes, and were distinguished from the king’s thanes. The ealdermen and dukes were all king’s thanes, and all others who held lands of the king by knight’s service in chief, and were immediate great tenants of the king’s estates. These were the greater thanes, and were succeeded by the barons, which title was brought in by the Normans, and is rarely found before the Conqueror. Mass thanes were those who held lands in fee of the church. Middle thanes were such as held very small estates of the king, or parcels of lands of the king’s greater thanes. They were called by the Normans vavassors, and their lands vavassories. They who held lands of these, were thanes of the lowest class, and did not rank as gentlemen. All thanes disposed of the lands which they held (and which were called Blockland) to their heirs, but with the obligations due to those of whom they were held. Ceorle (whence our word churl) was a countryman or artizan, who was a freeman. Those ceorles who held lands in leases, were called sockmen, and their lands sockland, of which they could not dispose, being barely tenants. Those ceorles who acquired possession of five hides of land with a large house, court, and bell to call together their servants, were raised to the rank of thanes of the lowest class. An hide of land was as much as one plough could till. The villains or slaves in the country were labourers, bound to the service of particular persons; were all capable of possessing money in property, consequently were not strictly slaves in the sense of the Roman law.

  Witan or Wites, (i. e. wisemen,) were the magistrates and lawyers. Burghwitten signified the magistrates of cities. Some shires (or counties) are mentioned before king Alfred; and Asserius speaks of earls (or counts) of Somerset, and Devonshire, in the reign of Ethelwolph. But Alfred first divided the whole kingdom into shires, the shires into tithings, lathes, or wapentacks, the tithings into hundreds, and the hundreds into tenths. Each division had a court subordinate to those that were superior, the highest in each shire being the shire-gemot, or folck-mote, which was held twice a year, and in which the bishop or his deputy, and the ealderman, or his vicegerent the sheriff, presided. See Seldon on the Titles of Honour; Spelman’s Glossary, ed noviss. Squires on the Government of the English Saxons. Dr. William Howel, in his learned General History, t. 5. p. 273, &c. N. B. The titles of earle and hersen were first given by Ifwar Widfame, king of Sweden, to two ministers of state, in 824; on which see many remarks of Olof Delin, in his excellent new history of Sweden, c. 5. t. 1. p. 334. 

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume II: February. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.

There are two saints called Oswald in England: one was a king, the other a monk.

The king lived in the 7th century in Northumbria: he brought St Aidan to Lindisfarne and his feast is on 5th August.

The monk, of danish origin, lived in the 10th century and became bishop of Worcester, and later archbishop of York; his feast is on 28th February. It is about the latter that Patrick Duffy writes here.

A  monk of Danish family

Oswald was of a Danish family and was brought up by his uncle Oda, who sent him to the Benedictine abbey of Fleury-sur-Loire to become a monk.

Bishop of Worcester

When Oswald returned to England as a priest in 958/9, he worked for another Danish patron, Oskytel, who had recently become archbishop of York. His activity for Oskytel attracted the notice of Saint Dunstan, then bishop of Worcester and in the process of moving to become archbishop of Canterbury. Dunstan persuaded King Edgar to appoint Oswald bishop of Worcester in his place in 961.

Founding monasteries

Oswald founded a number of monasteries at Westbury-on-Trym (near Bristol), at Ramsey (in Cambridgeshire) in collaboration with Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester and Pershore and Evesham (in Worcestershire). He also succeeded in gradually changing the cathedral chapter in Worcester from priests to monks, supposedly because the clergy would not give up their wives.

Archbishop of York

In 972 Oswald became archbishop of York, and was able to bring Abbo and other monks of Fleury to York to teach for a number of years.

Death and memory

But Oswald also held on to the diocese of Worcester, presiding over both dioceses. And it was at Worcester that on 29th February 992 he died, while he was washing the feet of the poor, a practice that had become his daily custom during Lent. He was buried in the Church of St Mary at Worcester. His feast is celebrated on 28th February. He is closely associated with other monks who became bishops – like St Dunstan (909-988) and St Ethelwold (908-984) – in restoring monasticism in England.

Saint Oswald

Archbishop of York
(† 992)

Oswald was of a noble Saxon family; he was endowed with a very rare and handsome appearance and with a singular piety of soul. Brought up by his uncle, Saint Odo, Archbishop of Canterbury, he was chosen, while still young, as dean of the secular canons of Winchester, at that time very lax. His attempt to reform them was a failure, and he saw, with that infallible instinct which so often guides the Saints in critical times, that the true remedy for the corruption of the clergy was the restoration of monastic life.

He therefore went to France and took the habit of Saint Benedict. When he returned to England it was to receive the news of Odo's death. He found, however, a new patron in Saint Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, through whose influence he was nominated to the see of Worcester. To these two Saints, together with Ethelwold of Winchester, the monastic revival of the tenth century is mainly due.

Oswald's first care was to deprive of their benefices all disorderly secular clerics, whom he replaced as far as possible by religious priests. He himself founded seven religious houses. Considering that in the hearts of the secular canons of Winchester there were yet some sparks of virtue, he would not at once dismiss them, but rather reformed them through a holy artifice. Adjoining their cathedral church he built a chapel in honor of the Mother of God, causing it to be served by a body of strict religious. He himself assisted at the divine Office there, and his example was followed by the people. The canons, finding themselves isolated and the church deserted, chose rather to embrace the religious life than continue to injure their own souls, and be also a mockery to their people, through the contrast offered by their worldliness and the regularity of their religious brethren.

Later, as Archbishop of York, Saint Oswald met a like success in his efforts. God manifested His approval of his zeal by discovering to him the relics of his great predecessor at Worcester, Saint Wilfrid, which he reverently translated to the church of that city. He died while washing the feet of the poor, as he did daily during Lent, on February 29, 992.

Reflection. A soul without discipline is like a ship without a helm: it must inevitably strike unawares upon the rocks, founder on the shoals, or float unawares into the harbor of the enemy.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894)

*On leap years, the feast day of this Saint is celebrated on February 29.