Died 722. Perhaps Saint Richard was not really a king–early Italian legend made him a prince of Wessex–but his sanctity was verified by the fact that he fathered three other saints: Willibald, Winebald (Wunibald), and Walpurga (Walburga). Butler tells us that “Saint Richard, when living, obtained by his prayers the recovery of his younger son Willibald, whom he laid at the foot of a great crucifix erected in a public place in England, when the child’s life was despaired of in a grievous sickness. . . . [he was] perhaps deprived of his inheritance by some revolution in the state; or he renounced it to be more at liberty to dedicate himself to the pursuit of Christian perfection. . . . Taking with him his two sons, he undertook a pilgrimage of penance and devotion, and sailing from Hamble-haven, landed in Neustria on the western coasts of France. He made a considerable stay at Rouen, and made his devotions in the most holy places that lay in his way through France.”
He fell ill, died suddenly at Lucca, Italy, and was buried in the church of San Frediano. A later legend makes him the duke of Swabia, Germany. Miracles were reported at his tomb, and he became greatly venerated by the citizens of Lucca and those of Eichstatt to where some of his relics were translated. The natives of Lucca amplified accounts of his life by calling him king of the English. Neither of his legends is especially trustworthy–even his real name is unknown and dates only from the 11th century. A famous account of the pilgrimage on which he died was written by his son’s cousin, the nun Hugeburc, entitled Hodoeporicon (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth, White)
In art, King Saint Richard is portrayed as a royal pilgrim (ermine- lined cloak) with two sons–one a bishop and one an abbot. His crown may be on a book (Roeder). He is venerated at Heidenheim and Lucca (Roeder).
St. Richard of WessexPublished 7 February 2008 General 17 Comments
Tags: gotta go to Italy someday, name days, Western saints
There isn’t exactly a ton known about St. Richard of Wessex (alternately known as St. Richard of Swabia and St. Richard the Pilgrim), whose feast is celebrated today. All we really know for sure is that he was an English saint who, after reposing in Italy, was venerated in Germany. There is far more known about his children, Ss. Walpurga, Winebald, and Willibald, and his brother, St. Boniface (aka St. Wilfrid) than about him. Nonetheless, here is a fairly reasonable summary of what can be said about St. Richard, from this website.
Some additional information about St. Richard and his family can also be found here. I hope that at some point I can visit the church of San Frediano in Lucca (pictured) to venerate his relics. I almost had a chance to go a few years ago, but it didn’t pan out.
A word about names. “Richard” is a Germanic name which means “Powerful ruler”; I expect it is related to the modern German word “Reich” and the name “Reichert”, and I’d be really surprised if it weren’t cognate with the Latin “rex”. If they presumed the anonymous saint was a king, “Richard” would have been a perfectly descriptive name to ascribe to him.
For my part, I was thrilled to discover the existence of a pre-schismatic St. Richard. Richard is my name, and count me as part of the camp that believes that names are given and not chosen, so I was overjoyed when it turned out that my given name was a perfectly good Orthodox saint’s name. Of course, having a feast day doesn’t mean he’s on my priest’s list of saints to commemorate, so it’s a name day that virtually nobody (and I mean nobody) ever remembers, but oh well.
St. Richard of Wessex, pray to God for us!