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St Margaret's Well, Binsey, Oxfordshire

Saint Frideswide (c. 650 – October 19, 735; ; also known as Frithuswith Fritheswithe, Frevisse, or simply Fris) was a celibate English princess and abbess who is credited with establishing Christ Churchmarker in Oxfordmarker.


Frideswide was born to Didanus (an Anglo-Saxon king) and his wife Safrida around AD 650. Frideswide founded a priory (St Frideswide's Priory) while still young, but while bound to celibacy Algar (that is, Ælfgār), a Mercianmarker king, tried to court her. When Frideswide refused him, Algar tried to rape her, but she hid in a nearby forest (in a "tub") to escape him. After she returned to the priory, Algar continued his advances until he lost his vision. According to tradition, Frideswide felt compassion for Algar and while in Binseymarker prayed to St Margaret of Antioch and St Catherine of Alexandria, who instructed her to hit the ground with her abbess's staff. Once Frideswide did this, the ground gave way to reveal a well, whose water she used to cure Algar's blindness. (This well can be found today at the Church of St Margaret.)

The priory

St Frideswide's Priory, a medieval Augustinian house which became Christ Church, Oxfordmarker following the dissolution of the monasteries is claimed to be the site of her abbey and relics, although this is under debate.

In modern tradition

Frideswide is the patron saint of Oxfordmarker. Her feast day is 19 October. In art, she is depicted holding the pastoral staff of an abbess, a fountain springing up near her and an ox at her feet. The fountain probably represents the holy well at Binseymarker. She appears in medieval stained glass and in Pre-Raphaelite stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxfordmarker, in the chapel where her shrine is also located.


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