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A ROYAL PRINCESS FOR CHESTER

Father Francis's picture
Saint Werburgh

In the year 655, about fifty years after St. Augustine had begun his mission in England, the Saxon kingdom of Mercia was converted to Christianity. The king had a daughter named Werburgh and this royal princess was to become the patroness of Chester.

Mercia included a large part of the North West of England and the northern Midlands, and Werburgh was brought up near Stone in Staffordshire. She was a pious child and when she grew up she chose the religious life in preference to a royal marriage, entering the monastery in Ely and eventually becoming its abbess. When her father died in 675, her uncle Edward became King of Mercia. He asked Werburgh to leave E\y and take charge of all the convents in the kingdom. She spent the rest of her life overseeing the work of various religious houses and also establishing new ones, notably at Trentham and Tutbury. It was at Trentham that she died in 699 at the age of 44.

In the ninth century England was invaded by the Danes who attacked and destroyed many Christian communities. To avoid desecration, Werburgh's body was transferred to Chester where a fine church was built to contain her shrine. In the reign of Henry VIll her remains were scattered, like many other holy relics, but she is commemorated by a monument.

There have been recorded instances of Werburgh's watchful care for the people of Chester. The sick have been cured through her intercession and the city has been saved from invasion and a serious fire.

Today it is not the Viking invasion that threatens the people of Chester but the dangers within, of materialism, homelessness and drugs. We ask its patroness Saint Werburgh to protect the city and its people against these evils.