Strange tale of an infant saint

By Tony Staley

Rumwold did a lot in just three days

Of thousands of saints in the Catholic canon, none has a stranger story than Rumwold of Buckingham.

This seventh century English saint, alternatively known as Rumbald, Rumbold and Rumwald, is also identified as being of Brackley.

But the various versions of his name and where he’s from do not make him so unusual. The extraordinary part of Rumwold’s story — which appears in an account written four centuries after his death — is that he lived only three days and in that time he:

  • said at least three times, “I am a Christian”;
  • asked for baptism (Bishop Wilderin administered the sacrament);
  • asked to receive holy Communion;
  • professed belief in the Trinity after baptism;
  • preached a sermon on the Trinity in which he quoted the Bible and the Athanasian Creed;
  • predicted his death;
  • described his burial arrangements.

St. Rumwold of Buckingham

When:   662 A.D.

Where: England

What: Infant

Feast: Nov. 3

Tradition says Romwold was the son of St. Cyneburga, a Christian queen, and Alchfrid, a pagan king of Northumbria. It’s also said that, while his mother agreed to marry Alchfrid, she refused to live with him as wife until he converted to Christianity.

Late in Cyneburga’s pregnancy, King Penda of Mercia called his daughter and son-in-law to come visit and she gave birth in Northamptonshire, near King’s Sutton on the Mercian royal estates.

The church at King’s Sutton says Rumwold may have been baptized in its font. Rumwold’s relics are said to have once been at two wells at Brackley and Buckingham, in Astrop just outside King’s Sutton.

There are churches in Kent, Essex, Northants, Lincolnshire, Dorset and North Yorkshire dedicated to Rumwold, which St. Bede says in his history of the church in England is because of St. Wilfrid, personal chaplain of Alchfrid.

A medieval statue — some accounts says portrait — of Rumwold at Boxley Abbey could only be moved by those who were chaste, the story says. However, it turned out purity was measured by the money one gave the abbey — if it was enough, a monk operated a hidden mechanism that helped move the artwork, which was destroyed during the Reformation after the trickery was discovered.

Another story says Rumwold scolded Sir Alured for swearing on his wedding day in 1282. Alured repented, only to swear again after his tooth began to ache from eating ice cream at the feast. Suddenly, Rumwold appeared in a window and the bride — but not her clothes — disappeared in a cloud of perfume.

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