Celtic and Old English Saints          8 February

* St. Oncho of Clonmore
* St. Elfleda of Whitby
* St. Kigwe of Monmouthshire
* St. Cuthman of Steyning

St. Oncho (Onchuo) of Clonmore, the Poet
Died c. 600. Saint Oncho was an Irish pilgrim, poet, guardian of the
Celtic traditions, and a collector of holy relics. While pursuing his
search for memorials of the Irish saints he died at Clonmore monastery,
then governed by Saint Maidoc, and his body was enshrined there together
with the relics he had gathered (Benedictines).

Troparion of St Oncho tone 2
Thou didst teach us the value of relics, O Father Oncho, for thou didst
spend thy earthly life collecting these precious aids to piety and
devotion./ Pray to God for us, that in honouring what is precious to
God,/ we may be found worthy of His great mercy.

Kontakion of St Oncho tone 4
Following thine example, most Holy Oncho,/ we pray for strength to
defend all precious and holy things,/ resisting to the end all attempts
at desecration and sacrilege/ by the agents of the godless,/ that in all
things glory may be given to Christ our God.

St. Elfleda, Abbess Virgin
(Aelflaed, Ethelfleda, Edilfleda, Elgiva)
Born 653; died 714. Daughter of King Oswy of Northumbria and his wife
Saint Eanfleda (f.d. November 24), Elfleda was offered to Saint Hilda
(f.d. November 17) and the convent of Hartlepool as a little child. Her
parents had vowed to consecrate her in infancy if Oswy were successful
in battle against the heathen King Penda of Mercia. Oswy won the battle
of Winwaed in 654, he kept his vow. In 657, Hilda founded or refounded
Whitby Abbey and Elfleda migrated there with Saint Hilda. When Oswy died
in 670, Eanfleda joined her daughter at the double monastery governed by
Hilda, and which later become the mausoleum of the Northumbrian royal
family. In turn Eanfleda and Elfleda succeeded Hilda as abbess of
Whitby. During Elfleda's abbacy, the earliest "vita" of Saint Gregory
the Great (f.d. September 3) was written there.

Elfleda was one of the most influential personages of her time. She
counted both Saint Cuthbert (f.d. March 20) and Saint Wilfred (f.d.
October 12) as friends. In 684, she met Cuthbert on Coquet Island. He
told her that her brother, King Egfrith, would die within a year and
that her half-brother Aldfrith would succeed him. Both of which
occurred. Later she was cured of paralysis by Cuthbert's girdle.

One of her primary means of influence was in her role as mediator.
Elfleda was instrumental in reconciling Saint Theodore of Canterbury
(f.d. September 19) and Saint Wilfrid. At the synod of the River Nidd in
705, she exercised her talent to reconcile Wilfrid to both Canterbury
and the church in Northumbria. She asserted that Aldfrith on his death
bed had promised to obey the commands of the Roman See concerning
Wilfrid and had enjoined his heir to do the same.

Elfleda's relics were discovered and translated at Whitby about 1125.
Her cultus, however, is attest only by late martyrologies (Benedictines,
Farmer, Gill).

St. Kigwe , Virgin
(Kewe, Ciwa, Kuet, Kywere )
Date unknown (5th century?). Saint Kigwe is probably identical to Saint
Ciwa, a 6th or 7th century saint venerated in Monmouthshire; she should
not be confused with Saint Cuach, the nurse of the Irish Saint Ciaran
(f.d. March 5). She is the patron of Saint Kew in Cornwall, formerly
called Docco in honour of Saint Congar (f.d. February 13), whose abbey
was ruined before the end of the first millennium. Kigwe replaced him as
patron before the 14th century. According to Roscarrock, Kigwe was
Congar's sister, but when she visited her brother in his hermit's cell,
"he would not receive her until such time as he saw a wild boar
miraculously obey her, after which time he conversed with her, who
proved of such rare virtue and holiness as she was after her death
reputed a saint and the Church of the parish called after her." The name
is also spelled Ciwg, Cwick, Kigwoe, etc. She is listed in the Exeter
Martyrology and in Welsh calendars (Benedictines, Farmer).

St. Cuthman (Cuthmann) of Steyning, Hermit
9th century. Among the ancient Anglo-Saxon saints was Cuthman, a native
of Devon or Cornwall (judging by his name; some ancient documents seem
to indicate that he was possibly born at Chidham near Bosham, c. 681),
who spent his youth as a shepherd on the moors. A grey and
weather-beaten stone high among the heather is said to mark the spot
where he used to sit, and around which he drew a wide circle in the
gorse, outside which his sheep were not allowed to wander. When his
father died and his mother was left poor, Cuthman proved himself a good
son and worked hard for their joint livelihood, but when she fell sick
he was unable to leave her and they became destitute.

Cuthman, at his wit's end, made a wooden two-wheeled barrow in which he
laid his mother, and with its two handles supported by a rope round his
neck, begged from door to door. But the dream of his life was to build a
church, and though he had no idea how this could be done, he resolved to
leave Cornwall with its bleak and windswept moors and travel

Putting his mother in the barrow along with their few belongings, he
pushed it day after day across the breadth of England until he came to
Steyning in West Sussex. There the rope which held the barrow broke, and
this he took for a sign that it was here where he must settle. He prayed
by the roadside: "O Almighty Father, who has brought my journey to an
end, You know how poor I am, and a labourer from my youth, and of myself
I can do nothing unless You succour me."

Here by the River Adur, in a lonely and quiet spot among the Downs, he
built a hut to shelter his mother, and then measured out the ground on
which to build his church. The local people were kind to him; they
watched him dig the foundations single-handedly, cut the timber and
build the walls, and they provided two oxen to help him. One day,
however the oxen strayed and were carried off by two youths who refused
to return them, whereupon Cuthman was angry. "I need them not," he said,
"to do my own work but to labour for God." and he yoked the two youths
themselves to his cart to draw it. "It must be moved," he said, "and you
must move it."

So Cuthman built a church and preached and stirred up the people. And
there where he worked, he died, and was buried beside the river, and
they called the place Saint Cuthman's Port, for the river in those days
was navigable.

Cuthman's name occurs in several early medieval calendars and in the old
Missal that was used by the English Saxons before the Norman conquest
(kept in the monastery of Jumieges, in which a proper mass is assigned
for his feast), a German martyrology clearly indicates a pre-Conquest
cultus, and the church at Steyning seems to have been dedicated to him
in the past. Saint Edward the Confessor (f.d. October 13) gave the
Steyning church to Fecamp, which monastery built a cell of monks on the
site of his old wooden church and built a new one dedicated to his
memory, although Cuthman's relics were
translated to Fecamp. The information on Cuthman preserved there may
contain some genuine material. The memory of this once forgotten saint
was revived by Christopher Fry in his one-act play "The Boy With A Cart"
(1939) (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth).

In art, Saint Cuthman is always shown among sheep because he was a
shepherd of Steyning (Roeder). He feast is kept at most Benedictine
monasteries in Normandy (Husenbeth).

Another Life:

In the Sussex Downs, not far from Brighton, is the village of Steyning
with the church founded by St.Cuthman. He originally lived in the West
Country, a son of a shepherd, who spent long hours watching over his
father's flock. There is a legend that he had a favourite stone on which
he used to sit and on one occasion he drew a circle round his stone with
the tip of his staff and commanded the sheep in the Name of Christ to
remain within the circle while he went off to get food. The flock obeyed
his instructions and never strayed, and the local people began to regard
Cuthman and his stone with reverence.

When his father died, Cuthman decided to move eastwards in search of new
pastures, and as his mother was crippled with age, he devised a kind of
wheelbarrow to convey her, which was supported by a rope around his
shoulders. He travelled in this manner for many days until one day, as
he was passing through a cornfield, the rope broke to the amusement of
those working in the field. Cuthman substituted a branch of alder for
the rope and this held for some days, but when that broke he decided
that God meant him to settle in that place. He built a hut for his
mother and then began laying out the foundations of a church.

The spot is described as "a quiet sequestered place, below the Round
Hill where two streams meet". It was a woody area and Cuthman built his
church of timber, having two oxen to help him to move heavy loads. On
one occasion two young men stole the oxen, and when they refused to
return them, Cuthman made them draw the loads themselves. On another
occasion Cuthman found one of the pillars was bending under the weight
of the roof, and the whole structure was about to collapse. At that
moment a man of a "grave and beautiful aspect" appeared, who helped him
to straighten it. He asked the man who he was, and he replied, "I am
Jesus for whom you build this house", and then disappeared.

In the porch of the present church there is an ancient stone with what
is thought to be pre-Christian incisions on one side throughout its six
foot length. Once it was thought to be the tomb stone of St.Cuthman, but
now it is regarded as the origin of the place name. The Saxon "Stenninga
s" means the People of the Stone, and this may be the sacred stone that
stood in the centre of a pagan grove converted, in accordance with the
policy of S.Gregory, into a Christian sanctuary by St.Cuthman. The stone
was used as a door-step until 1938, when the engravings were discovered.

The River Adur, then called the Bramber, was navigable as far as
Steyning, and the place became known as St.Cuthman's Port. The Saxon
kings had an estate here, and King Alfred's father, Ethelwulf, is buried
in the Church. In the eleventh century, Edward the Confessor gave this
church and manor to the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy and the withholding
of the revenue from Steyning was one of the reasons that William gave
for making the Norman invasion of Britain a "Holy War". In the twelfth
century the monks of Fecamp built the present stone church to replace
the wooden one of St.Cuthman (Baring Gould, Cockman, Mee)


Baring-Gould, S. The Lives of the Saints
(15 volumes: John Hodges, 1882)

Benedictine Monks of Saint Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

Cockman, George. Cuthman, Steyning and the Stone

Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gill, F. C. (1958). The Glorious Company: Lives of Great
Christians for Daily Devotion, vol. I. London: Epworth Press.

Husenbeth, Rev. F. C., DD, VG (ed.). (1928). Butler's
Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints.
London: Virtue & Co.

Mee, Arthur. King's England - Sussex

For All the Saints:

An Alphabetical Index of the Saints of the West

These Lives are archived at:


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