St. Richard of Wessex

st_richard_of_wessex.jpg 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.

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).

sanfrediano.jpgSome 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!

18 Responses to “St. Richard of Wessex”

  1. 1 Jonathan 8 February 2008 at 10:37 am

    Happy Name’s Day, my dear friend.

  2. 2 Anna 8 February 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Xronia Polla! Many years!

  3. 3 Matthew 11 February 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Well, I’m super late on this, but Happy Name’s Day Richard!

  4. 4 Richard Barrett 11 February 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Right, because I’m soooooo good at remembering yours (16 November, right?)… thank you!

    Hopefully next year it might actually work out to have a party, since 7 February will be on a Saturday. We’ll see.

  5. 5 Msgr. Richard Soseman 7 February 2009 at 3:58 am

    Happy Feast Day!

  6. 7 Richard 31 January 2010 at 10:23 am


    I’m another orthodox “Richard” and I just thought you might like to know that I have the original Icon from the top of the page (it was commissioned for me by my wife and painted by Benjamin Carver).

    I was able to visit Lucca some years ago (it’s a bit nearer from here!). I hope you manage to get there some day!

    • 8 Richard Barrett 31 January 2010 at 2:00 pm

      Well, hello there! Glad to make your acquaintance. Do you happen to have any pictures of Lucca you’d be able to share?

  7. 9 Richard A Downing 6 February 2010 at 3:35 am

    I am to be received as an Orthodox catechumen on St Richard’s day this year (2010). So there will be one more Richard saying the troparia of the saint – and in this case with the whole parish. It also happens to be my 60th birthday, but strangely Richard is a family name, and I’m sure my parents had never heard of St Richard the Saxon.

    Accepting Christ our God as King, O Father Richard, thou didst leave thy native Wessex to be a pilgrim. Pray that in our pilgrimage we may find salvation for our souls.

    InXC, Richard.

  8. 12 Jean Pollock 28 February 2011 at 10:36 am


    I am updating the Feast Days of saints that I pray to daily, of whom St. Richard, father of Sts. Wilibald, Walburga & Winibald, and came across your site. Just wanted you to know that I pray to these saints daily as I am a mother of 10 and always pray to “families of saints” that ours may become a family of saints. I still didn’t find out when his Feast Day is!

  9. 14 Richard E Simpson,PhD 11 May 2011 at 12:43 pm

    We visited Lucca for a week in late April-early May. (What a lovely place!) His relics are under an altar in a large side altar area in a place the average person cannot get into in St. Frediano’s church. There are a couple of pictures of him in the church, one a fresco. (St. Zita’s mummified remains are in a glass coffin in another side altar of this same church.)

  10. 15 Richard 12 November 2012 at 4:43 pm

    I too am a Richard! I have never heard of St Richard of Wessex. I know that there was a later St Richard of Chichester who was a medieval bishop and I thought he was the only one. Interesting to hear of a previous Saint Richard and I will make a note of his name day.

  11. 16 Derek 18 January 2021 at 12:03 pm

    Hi there, in the interest of spreading the word about St Richard (and maybe getting your nameday a little more play), I’m hoping feature him in an upcoming men’s group through my parish. I appreciate your post here. I’m wondering also whether you’ve managed to track down any hymns honoring the saint, be they Orthodox or not.

    Thank you!

  1. 1 St. Richard of Wessex, pray for us! « Leitourgeia kai Qurbana: Contra den Zeitgeist Trackback on 7 February 2009 at 11:18 am
  2. 2 Gloriose rex Richarde, ora pro nobis « Leitourgeia kai Qurbana: Contra den Zeitgeist Trackback on 7 February 2012 at 12:25 am

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