Rumwold of Buckingham

For the Anglo-Saxon martyr of Mechelen, see Rumbold of Mechelen.
Saint Rumwold (or Rumbold)

St Rumbold's Well in Buckingham

St Rumbold's Well in Buckingham
Born 662 AD
Walton Grounds near King's Sutton, Northamptonshire
Died 662 AD (aged 3 days)
Feast 3 November[1]

Rumwold was a medieval infant saint in England, said to have lived for three days in 662.[2] He is said to have been miraculously full of Christian piety despite his young age, and able to speak from the moment of his birth, professing his faith, requesting baptism, and delivering a sermon prior to his early death. Several churches were dedicated to him of which about six survive.

His name has a number of alternative spellings: Rumoalde, Rumwald, Runwald, Rumbald, Rumbold, Romwold, Rombout. Rumbold is the more common name used today, with streets in Buckingham and Lincoln being spelt this way.

According to the 11th century hagiography, Vita Sancti Rumwoldi, he was the grandson of Penda of Mercia (a pagan, but incorrectly described in Rumwold's hagiography as having converted to Christianity) and the son of a king of Northumbria. His parents are not actually named; Alhfrith, son of Oswiu of Northumbria, did marry a daughter of Penda, Cyneburh, but Alhfrith was never king of Northumbria himself, although his father was (Alhfrith did rule the subkingdom of Deira for a time). There have, however, been doubts about whether these were his parents: for instance, the Northumbrian king is described as a pagan, but Alhfrith was a Christian (at least according to Bede, who says Alhfrith convinced Penda's son Peada to convert to Christianity). Although it has been stated that Cyneburh is not known to have had any children Northumbrian genealogy states she and Alhfrith had a further son Osric who subsequently became King of Northumbria himself (source: Stenton).

In the Vita, Rumwold's mother is described as a pious Christian who, when married to a pagan king, tells him that she will not consummate the marriage until he converts to Christianity; he does so, and she becomes pregnant. The two are called by Penda to come to him when the time of her birth is near, but she gives birth during the journey, and immediately after being born the infant is said to have cried out: "Christianus sum, christianus sum, christianus sum" ("I am a Christian, I am a Christian, I am a Christian"). He went on to further profess his faith, to request baptism, and to ask to be named "Rumwold", afterwards giving a sermon. He predicted his own death, and said where he wanted his body to be laid to rest, in Buckingham.

Saint Rumwold is reported to have been born in Walton Grounds near King's Sutton in Northamptonshire which was at that time part of the Mercian royal estates possessing a court house and other instruments of government. The field in which he was born where a chapel once stood on the supposed spot may still be seen. King's Sutton parish church claims that its Saxon or Norman font may well have been the one Saint Rumwold was baptised in. There are two wells associated with his name in Astrop just outside Kings' Sutton and at Brackley and Buckingham where his relics once lay.[3] Church dedications largely follow the missionary activity of Saint Wilfrid who was the personal chaplain of King Alhfrith (source: Bede) but once spread as far as North Yorkshire, Lincoln, Essex and Dorset.

Boxley Abbey had a famous portrait of the saint. It was small and of a weight so small a child could lift it but at times became so heavy even strong people could not lift it. According to tradition the attempt to lift the portrait was a test of a woman's chastity. In practice, those who paid the priest well could lift the portrait with ease, while others could not. Upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries in England, it was discovered that the portrait was held by a wooden pin by an unseen person behind the portrait.[4]

In 2000 a complete Orthodox Christian service to Saint Rumwold was written along with a tone system (Orthodox musical system) with which to sing it which also has more general application. The service is performed on his two feast days which are November 3 (main feast) and August 28 (translation of relics). In 2005 the former church of Saint Rumwold in Lincoln which is now a college erected a plaque to celebrate the connection.

A statue of St. Rombout,
Hanswijk Basilica, Mechelen

St. Rumbold of Mechelen

There has been some historical confounding between Rumwold of Buckingham and Rumbold of Mechelen. The latter is locally known by the Latin name Rumoldus and in particular his name in Dutch, Rombout (in French spelled as Rombaut), and assumedly never called Rumwold. His usual names in English are Rumold, Rumbold, Rombout, and Rombaut. A compilation about three saints' lives as translated by Rosalind Love shows that an unknown author 'corrected' a 15th-century attribution as "martyr" (assumedly Rumbold who was murdered in Mechelen) by annotating "confessor" (fitting Rumwold who was no martyr), and that the original dedication of churches in Northern England appears uncertain, be it that "There is little sign that St Rombout was venerated in Anglo-Saxon England. Certainly his feast is not mentioned in any surviving pre-conquest calendar".[5]




  1. Love, Rosalind C. (1996). "4. St Rumwold of Buckingham and Vita Sancti Rvmwoldi — (ii) The Liturgical Evidence". Three Eleventh-Century Anglo-Latin Saint's Lives — Vita S. Birini, Vita et Miracula S. Kenelmi, Vita S. Rumwoldi. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 1996 (Limited online at Google books). p. cxl-cxli. ISBN 0-19-820524-4. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  2. Rumbold Leigh In Search Of Saint Rumbold (2000). Sveti Ivan Rilski Press
  3. Douglas J. Elliott Buckingham: the loyal and ancient borough (1975). Philimore
  4. Sidney Heath (1912). Pilgrim Life in the Middle Ages. pp. 232–233.
  5. Love, Rosalind C. "excerpts about 'St. Rombaut' (Rombout)". Three Eleventh-Century Anglo-Latin Saint's Lives — Vita S. Birini, Vita et Miracula S. Kenelmi, Vita S. Rumwoldi. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 1996 (Limited online at Google books). p. cxliii–cxliv, cli & cliv, clii<!––not decimal, which numbering occurs separately––>. ISBN 0-19-820524-4. Retrieved 26 July 2011.

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