St. Swithun and St. Vladimir: Christian Church marks two saints’ days

Interior of vast cathedral, high ceiling with gold and paintings

The interior of St. Volodymr (St. Vladimir) Cathedral, in Russia. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

TUESDAY, JULY 15: Two saints of the Christian Church are recognized in the West today: it’s the feast of legendary St. Swithun, and the famed Russian, St. Vladimir. (St. Swithun in recognized in Wales on July 2.)

Born just 150 years apart, the two saints led dramatically different lives. Swithun, born in Wessex, England, became Patron Saint of Winchester Cathedral and is now a renowned weather legend primarily within England. Vladimir, once renowned for savagery and corruption, made a dramatic conversion to Christianity and spread the religion throughout Russia.

ST. SWITHUN:
THE SAINT BEHIND THE WEATHER

Born c. 800 CE, Swithun was educated at Winchester and ordained in the same monastery; he became chaplain to King Egbert, and tutored the son who would see him become an Anglo-Saxon bishop at Winchester. Swithun, known for his humility and assistance to the poor, built and restored several churches during his lifetime. (Wikipedia has details.) Legend has it that if it rains on Swithun’s feast day, 40 days of rain will ensue; this legend, though steeped in English history, doesn’t hold much water among scientists.

Per his request, Swithun was buried out of doors, upon his death in 862 CE. In 971, Swithun’s body was moved to an indoor shrine in the Old Minster at Winchester.

ST. VLADIMIR:
RUSSIAN TYRANT TO DEVOUT CHRISTIAN

Vladimir Sviatoslavich the Great, born illegitimately to a prince of modern-day Russia, is recognized in both the East and West today. The grandson of St. Olga and son of a mistress, Vladimir was born in 956 CE; in time, Vladimir was given Novgorod by his father, to rule. Shortly after his father’s death, however, Vladimir was forced to flee for his life, as his murderous half-brother took over Novgorod. (Read more from Catholic Online.)

Unwilling to accept defeat, Vladimir gathered an army and returned to Novgorod to slay his brother. He emerged victorious, taking position as sole ruler of Russia. Vladimir expanded his kingdom with extensive bloodshed and an utter lack of morality, until political motives and curiosity led him from Slavic paganism to Christianity. Vladimir converted to Christianity in 988, married a close relative of Eastern Emperor Basil II, reformed his life and began erecting churches across Kiev. (Read more from Wikipedia.) Christian schools and churches were constructed, and the entire Kievan Rus was converted to Christianity.

Following his death, Vladimir’s body was venerated as a relic. Ukrainian and Russian folk ballads still tell his tale, and churches bear his name.

IN THE NEWS:
BOSTON GLOBE TO LAUNCH POPE FRANCIS WEBSITE

With the immense popularity of the Catholic Church’s current pope, a new website soon will be launched by the Boston Globe, report several news sources. The idea was sparked following the recent hire of a writer from the National Catholic Reporter—whose stories have found a growing audience in the Globe. The website will contain news and analyses of Pope Francis and the entire Catholic Church.