Relic of St. Edward the Confessor – 2021

Reliquary of St. Edward the Confessor reliquary

 St. Edward Reliquary

A confessor is a saint who suffers for his faith by striving to resist temptations.  St. Edward was a man of great prayer, he lived off the income of his own lands and helped the poor, revoking unjust taxes.  He was widely thought of as a gentle, loyal and devoted king.

St. Edward’s church has for many years held a first class relic of the saint which is now housed on display in an illuminated reliquary on the Sanctuary of our church.  Do have a look!  The relic is a small bone fragment, now of course 955 years old!

Edward was born near Oxford around 1005. The son of King Ethelred and his Norman queen, Emma, they spent some time in exile in Normandy after the Danish invasion of 1013.  Ethelred was briefly reinstated as king but after his death in 1016 the Danes once again took control.  England was next ruled by Canute until his death in 1035, then Edward tried to capture the crown but without success.  He made a vow that he would undertake a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s in Rome if he was able to return safely to his kingdom.  He returned in 1042 when he succeeded Canute’s son on the throne.  But Edward found it difficult to carry out his vow to make the pilgrimage to Rome as it meant leaving his subjects.

The Pope released him from this vow on the condition that he founded a monastery in dedication to St Peter.  But Edward went even further and built a new cathedral in Norman style. That cathedral is Westminster Abbey where St. Edward is buried.   Without Edward, it would likely not have been more than a small monastery.

Edward the Confessor was believed to have the power of healing.  He began the royal custom of touching ill people to cure them, a tradition which continued for nearly 700 years until Queen Anne came to the throne.  He also vowed chastity, remaining celibate even after marrying the daughter of one of his advisors. He therefore had no children and the throne passed to his brother-in-law, Harold, who was quickly overthrown by William the Conqueror.

Edward the Confessor died on January 5, 1066 and was made a saint in 1161.  Many sick people came to kneel at his tomb for healing. Richard II prayed there too, asking for strength before the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381.  Today, Edward the Confessor is the only major English saint whose body is still in its shrine.  St. Edward, pray for us!