Saint Sidwell

Saint Sidwell

The relief of Saint Sidwell on a shopping arcade in Sidwell Street, Exeter.
Died 6th century?
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Feast variously given as 31 July, 1 August and 2 August.
Attributes scythe; water well

Sidwell (Latin: Sativola) was a virgin saint from the English county of Devon, possibly of British origin. Her historical existence is not well established.

Cult and iconography

The cultus of Sidwell has been active at Exeter from early times. Pilgrims were visiting her shrine by 1000, and their activity is mentioned both by John Leland and William Worcestre. The Catalogus Sanctorum Pausantium in Anglia describes her as a native of Exeter who was beheaded by reapers, who were incited so to do by her stepmother. This legend bears a striking similarity to that of both Saint Urith and Saint Juthwara, her supposed sister. She is said to have been buried outside the city, where the sick could be healed at her grave. The Church of St Sidwell, located just outside the site of Exeter's east gate, is still extant, though it was largely rebuilt after being bombed during the Second World War. The site also once had a well at which cures are believed to have been effected. One of the main streets in Exeter is Sidwell Street.

In addition, a church at Laneast in Cornwall is dedicated to Sidwell, though the dedication appears to only date from the 15th century (the additional patron, Saint Gulval, really belongs to Lanisly (now Gulval) and was only added in the 18th century). Here, too, is a holy well, though without dedication.

In art, Sidwell is represented with a scythe and a well at her side. St Sidwells, formerly a village outside Exeter, bears her name and she appears in stained glass in Exeter Cathedral as well as in the chapel at Oxford's All Souls College and the parish church of Ashton in Devon. She is also depicted on at least seven painted rood screens around the same county. Sidwell's feast day is variously given as 31 July, 1 August and 2 August. The sculpture in sidwell street was created by Bideford Artist Fred Irving in 1969 and is made of fibreglass


Further reading

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