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November 3, 2017

Saint Rumwold of Buckingham (+ 662)

St. Rumwold of Buckingham (Feast Day - November 3)

Rumwold was an infant saint in England, said to have lived for only three days in 662. He is said to have been miraculously full of Christian piety despite his young age, and able to speak from the moment of his birth, professing his faith, requesting baptism, and delivering a sermon prior to his early death. Several churches were dedicated to him, of which about six survive.

According to the 11th century hagiography, Vita Sancti Rumwoldi, he was the grandson of King Penda of Mercia (a pagan, but incorrectly described in Rumwold's hagiography as having converted to Christianity) and the son of a king of Northumbria. His parents are not actually named; Alhfrith, son of Oswiu of Northumbria, did marry a daughter of Penda, Cyneburh, but Alhfrith was never king of Northumbria himself, although his father was (Alhfrith did rule the subkingdom of Deira for a time). There have, however, been doubts about whether these were his parents: for instance, the Northumbrian king is described as a pagan, but Alhfrith was a Christian (at least according to Bede, who says Alhfrith convinced Penda's son Peada to convert to Christianity). Although it has been stated that Cyneburh is not known to have had any children, Northumbrian genealogy states she and Alhfrith had a further son, Osric, who subsequently became King of Northumbria himself.

Font of St. Rumwold in Bonnington

In the Vita, Rumwold's mother is described as a pious Christian who, when married to a pagan king, tells him that she will not consummate the marriage until he converts to Christianity; he does so, and she becomes pregnant. The two are called by Penda to come to him when the time of her birth is near, but she gives birth during the journey, and immediately after being born the infant is said to have cried out: "Christianus sum, christianus sum, christianus sum" ("I am a Christian, I am a Christian, I am a Christian"). He went on to further profess his faith, to request baptism by the hands of the proest Edwold and Widerin, and to ask to be named "Rumwold" on his first day of life; delivered a sermon on Christian virtues and the Holy Trinity on his second day; then he predicted his own death, and said where he wanted his body to be laid to rest, eventually in Buckingham, on his third and final day. And, as he had commanded, he was buried in that same place and laid to rest there for one year. Then after the death of the priest Edwold, he was translated to Brackley by the priest Widerin where he remained for two years. And three years after his repose he was translated to Buckingham, where many miracles were wrought for those who sought his prayers. The blind were given their sight, the lame walked, and many diseases were cured.

Saint Rumwold is reported to have been born in Walton Grounds, near King's Sutton in Northamptonshire, which was at that time part of the Mercian royal estates, possessing a court house and other instruments of government. The field in which he was born, where a chapel once stood on the supposed spot, may still be seen. King's Sutton parish church claims that its Saxon or Norman font may well have been the one where Saint Rumwold was baptized. There are two wells associated with his name: in Astrop, just outside Kings' Sutton, and at Brackley and Buckingham, where his relics once lay. Church dedications largely follow the missionary activity of Saint Wilfrid, who was the personal chaplain of King Alhfrith, but once spread as far as North Yorkshire, Lincoln, Essex and Dorset.

It is believed that Saint Rumwold's shrine and tomb were demolished when the old Buckingham church collapsed in 1776; unfortunately, nothing was transferred to the present-day church built on Castle Hill. Recently a memorial was erected to Saint Rumwold which is inscribed as follows:

Boxley Abbey had a famous portrait of the Saint. It was of a weight so small a child could lift it but at times became so heavy even strong people could not lift it. According to tradition, the attempt to lift the portrait was a test of a woman's chastity. In practice, those who paid the priest well could lift the portrait with ease, while others could not. Upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries in England, it was discovered that the portrait was held by a wooden pin by an unseen person behind the portrait.

In 2000, a complete Orthodox Christian service to Saint Rumwold was written along with a tone system (Orthodox musical system) with which to sing it which also has more general application. The service is performed on his two feast days, which are 3 November (main feast) and 28 August (translation of relics). In 2005, the former church of Saint Rumwold in Lincoln, which is now a college, erected a plaque to celebrate the connection.

His name has a number of alternative spellings: Rumoalde, Rumwald, Runwald, Rumbald, Rumbold, Romwold, Rombout. Rumbold is the more common name used today, with streets in Buckingham and Lincoln being spelt this way.

St. Rumbold's Well in Buckingham

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Great is thy confession, O holy infant, and great as our wonder is our praise of thee. Glorious is thine utterance, O giver of wisdom, and glorious the Spirit from Whom thy wisdom hath come down. O Holy Rumwold, intercede with Christ God, that He may save the souls that He hath made.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Thy three days of life were life indeed, born with confession of the Faith on thy lips, and after unceasing confession of that Faith by word and deed, thou didst ascend to the Father. O holy Rumwold, miraculous infant, pray that we who hymn thee may receive like mercy.