St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain’
For forty days it will remain;
St Swithin’s day if thou be fair,
For forty days will rain na mair.
So goes the well-known rhyme, and as it’s St Swithin’s day, and as it’s been a lovely dry day, a summer of sunshine awaits us.
It all began on the 15 July in the year 971 when the bishop of Winchester, Aethelwold, ordered that the bones of St. Swithin, a previous occupier of the office, be dug up and placed in a shrine inside the cathedral.
It was a nice little earner for a saint’s relics, such as his bones, to be accessible for pilgrims. But St Swithin had asked to be buried outside so that he would be exposed to “the feet of passers-by and the drops falling from above“.
The Saint must have been a tad upset because, as legend would have it, a violent storm began, it started raining and did not stop for forty days.
Five hundred odd years later, the Saint’s mortal remains were even more ignominiously treated. In 1538, King Henry VIII ordered the shrine to be destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. But this time, St Swithin was unperturbed.
Source: Rhymes.org.uk. (2017). St. Swithin’s day nursery rhyme lyrics, origins and history. [online] Available at: http://www.rhymes.org.uk/a78-st-swithins-day.htm [Accessed 15 Jul. 2021].