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Osyth

From Academic Kids

Osyth (died 653 AD) was an English saint. Though she may be entirely legendary, she is commemorated in the village of St. Osyth, Essex near Colchester. Alternative spellings of her name include "Othith" and "Ositha".

Born in Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire (at that time part of Mercia), she was the daughter of Frithwald, a sub-king of Mercia in Surrey, and was the niece of St. Edith and Saint Edburga of Bicester. Her mother was Wilburga, the daughter of the pagan King Penda of Mercia.

Raised in a convent in Warwickshire under the direction of St Modwen[1] (http://journals.aol.co.uk/jeanno43/Family/entries/1158), her ambition was to become an abbess, but she was too important as a dynastic pawn to be set aside: forced by her father into a dynastic marriage with King Sighere of Essex. She did her dynastic duty and produced him a son, then, eventually, perhaps after Sighere's death, she established a convent at place called Chich, in Essex, where she ruled as first abbess.

She was murdered by Danish Viking marauders in 653.

Her death was accounted a martyrdom by some, but Bede makes no mention of Saint Osyth. The 13th-century chronicler Matthew Paris repeats some of the legend that had accrued around her name. The site of her martyrdom became transferred to the holy spring at Quarrendon. The holy spring at Quarrendon, mentioned in the time of Osyth's aunts, now became associated with her legend, in which Osyth stood up after her execution, picking up her head like Saint Denis in Paris and walking with it in her hands, to the door of a local convent, before collapsing there.

Later, Chich (St. Osyth) was assumed as part of his royal demesne by the Dane King Canute, who granted it to Earl Godwin, and by him it was given to Christ Church, Canterbury. At the Conquest it was transferred to the Bishopric of London.

On the site of the former nunnery, Richard de Belmeis of London, in the reign of Henry I founded a priory for canons of St. Augustine, and his remains were buried in the chancel of the church in 1127: he bequeathed the church and tithes to the canons, who elected as their first abbot or prior William de Corbeil, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury (died in 1136). His benefactions, charters and privileges granted by Henry II, made the Canons wealthy: at the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, its revenues were valued at 758 5s. 8d. yearly. A gatehouse and so-called "Abbot's Tower" and some ranges remain.

Osyth's burial site at St Mary's Church in Aylesbury was a site of great pilgrimage. However, following a papal decree in 1500, the bones were removed from the church and buried in secret. The Catholic Encyclopedia gave St. Osyth no mention. Undeterred, according to the 17th century curious antiquary John Aubrey (author of the Brief Lives) "in those days, when they went to bed they did rake up the fire, and make a X on the ashes, and pray to God and St. Sythe (that is St. Osyth) to deliver them from fire, and from water, and from all misadventure." A house in Aylesbury is still called St. Osyth's House in her honour.

Her feast day is October 7. She is normally depicted carrying her own head.


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