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St. George’s Day is a good opportunity to look for a patron saint closer to home. Is Whitby close enough?

April 23, 2013

From Stewart Arnold

As predictable as St. George’s Day comes every year, so does the discussion that the English ought to do more for their patron saint’s day. Equally, the perennial discussion is around whether in fact St. George is even an appropriate patron saint given he never even visited England. In fact, it might be possible to accommodate him along with one or more patron saints as it’s not unusual for countries to have several. France, for example, has four, including Joan of Arc. There is no doubt that St. George adds to the English sense of identity and it goes without saying that throughout the world having a patron saint is a ‘must-have’ for regions and non-sovereign states. We see this is Britain not only Scotland and Wales but also in Cornwall, Jersey and Guernsey for example. Further afield it is no surprise that the patron saint of Catalonia is different from that of Spain as a whole. So this leads to the inevitable question in Yorkshire: given our own sense of identity should we have our own patron saint?  If the answer is a ‘yes’ then we should consider some of the names that have been put forward in the past as possible contenders.

From A Yorkshire Miscellany by Tom Holman

Saint Paulinus. Sent from Rome in the early 7th century, he became the first Archbishop of York at the original Minster and converted King Edwin to Christianity

Saint Hilda of Whitby. Founder of the 7th century at Whitby and revered as a teacher. There is a priority and community of Saint Hilda at Whitby’s Sneaton castle.

Saint Wilfrid. A zealous and often controversial abbot of Ripon and Bishop of York most famous for edging the Church away from Celtic customs to Roman ones  at the 7th century Synod of Whitby.

Saint John of Beverley. A leader of the Northumbrian church in whom many miracles are ascribed. Founded a monastery on the site where Beverley Minster now stands; the church was built around his tomb.

Saint Robert of Newminster. Born near Skipton in the early 12th century and became an abbot at Whitby before joining the founders of Fountains Abbey. He later founded the abbey at Newminster, further north in Northumberland.

Saint William of York. Born in York and an Archbishop there in the 12th century. After his death – supposedly from poisoning -miracles were reported at his tomb. St Williams College near York Minister is named after him.

Saint Leonard of Reresby. Captured in the 13th century Crusades but miraculously freed and transported back to his home town of Thrybergh in south Yorkshire to interrupt his wife’s remarriage. A cross marks the spot.

Saint John of Bridlington. Born in 1319 in Thwing near Bridlington, where he lived for many years at the priory and built a reputation for miraculous powers. He is the patron of women in difficult labour.

Saint John Fisher. Born in Beverley in 1469 and executed by Henry VIII in 1535 for refusing to accept him as head of the Church of England.

Saint Margaret Ciltherow. Born in York in 1556 and converted to Catholicism on marriage. She was crushed to death in 1586 for giving shelter to priests in her home on the Shambles in York.

From Wikipedia

St. Robert of Knaresborough  (c. 1160 – 24 September 1218) was a hermit who lived in a cave by the River Nidd, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. He was a local man by the name of Robert Flower (or Robert Fleur), the son of a mayor of York. He lived in various places in the vicinity of Knaresborough before taking up residence in a cave by the river Nidd (then known as St. Giles’ Priory). It is said that King John visited him and Trinitarian friars also venerated himtowards the end of his life, pilgrims flocked to see Robert to seek spiritual guidance and to be healed of physical ailments. Today the cave, carved into a limestone cliff, can still be visited by the public. A small chapel and evidence of a small living area are all that remain. The only church dedicated to him is in Harrogate.

In making the choice we should be mindful of a definition of a patron saint and this definition is taken from Wikipedia:

A patron saint or a patron hallow is a saint who in many Christian denominations is regarded as the tutelary spirit or heavenly advocate of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person.

I know St. Robert has his advocates. My own preferred option is St. Hilda. She seemed to have a reputation for wisdom so much so she was the confidant of kings and yet had a common touch. Bede says of her: “All who knew her called her mother because of her outstanding devotion and grace”. It would seem appropriate to me that a matriarchal figure such as St. Hilda should be the patron saint of Yorkshire.



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  1. I definitely think Hilda would be good. William of York has a ring, too. Not too keen on Paulinus.

  2. Nigel Sollitt permalink

    The most obvious Saint for Yorkshire has to be Saint Edwin. Prior to sainthood, Edwin founded Yorkshire in AD626. As ‘King Edwin’, he annexed neighbouring lands to the Kingdom started by his father and created a kingdom that comprised all Yorkshire, then known as ‘Deira’. King Edwin was also the first Angle King to convert to Christianity. He was baptised in AD627 by Bishop Paulinus at a wooden church that he had built in York specifically for the purpose. After his baptism, he ordered the church to be rebuilt in stone. That church was eventually to become no less than York Minster where a statue of Saint Edwin can be seen today.

  3. Richard Carter permalink

    Some good suggestions and sound logic. I would go with both St Hilda and Saint Edwin. Both excellent choices…

  4. kimberley permalink

    Why are these names from North Yorkshire? Are there none from our other Yorkshire regions?

  5. Dave permalink

    Surely a gap here is St Constantine the Great? He was declared Emporer in York, the rest as they say, is history.

  6. Dave permalink

    The other option is Robin Hood, not yet a Saint but perhaps greatest of all

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