Blog British Saints Daily Drawing women saints

Journey through June – Saint Winifred of Holywell – 23/26

Today I have drawn St Winifred of Holywell (7th century)

Her feast day is 3 November and she is commemorated by the Orthodox, Anglican and Roman Catholic Church.

Her life

The oldest accounts of the saint’s life date to the 12th century. According to legend, Winifred was the daughter of a chieftain of Tegeingl, Welsh nobleman, Tyfid ap Eiludd. Her mother was Wenlo, a sister of Saint Beuno and a member of a family closely connected with the kings of south Wales. Her suitor, Caradog, was enraged when she decided to become a nun, and decapitated her.

A healing spring appeared at where her head fell. Winifred’s head was subsequently rejoined to her body due to the efforts of Saint Beuno, and she was restored to life. Seeing the murderer leaning on his sword with an insolent and defiant air, St. Beuno invoked the chastisement of heaven, and Caradog fell dead on the spot, the popular belief being that the ground opened and swallowed him. St. Beuno left Holywell, and returned to Caernarfon. Before he left the tradition is that he seated himself upon the stone, which now stands in the outer well pool, and there promised in the name of God “that whosoever on that spot should thrice ask for a benefit from God in the name of St. Winefride would obtain the grace he asked if it was for the good of his soul.”

After eight years spent at Holywell, Winifred received an inspiration to leave the convent and retire inland. Accordingly, St. Winifred went upon her pilgrimage to seek for a place of rest. Ultimately she arrived at Gwytherin near the source of the River Elwy. She later became a nun and abbess at Gwytherin in Denbighshire. More elaborate versions of this tale relate many details of her life, including Winefride’s pilgrimage to Rome. Further details of her veneration and relics at Wikipedia

The drawing shows her holding a crozier as Abbess and the holy well from her decapitation (& restoration to life).

St Winifred of Holywell


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Journey through June – Saint Theneva of Glasgow – 20/26

Today I have drawn St Theneva of Glasgow (6th or 7th century)

Her feast day is 18 July and she is commemorated by the Orthodox, Anglican and Roman Catholic Church.

Her life

St. Theneva was born in the sixth century to British Prince Lothus.

When it was discovered that she had conceived out of wedlock, she was thrown from a cliff. Unharmed at the bottom, she was then set adrift in a coracle. It was expected that she would die at sea, but God protected her.

Theneva’s boat landed at Culross, where she was sheltered by St. Serf and gave birth to St. Kentigern, named Mungo (“darling”) by his foster-father. St. Kentigern remained with St. Serf until he reached manhood.

St. Theneva is the co-patron, along with her son, of Glasgow, Scotland. (Text from Antiochian Archdiocese


Blog British Saints Daily Drawing women saints

Journey through June – Saint Pega of Peakirk – 16/26

Today I have drawn St Pega of Peakirk (c.673-719)

Her feast day is 8th January and she is commemorated by the Orthodox, Anglican and Roman Catholic Church.

Her life

Pega belonged to one of the great noble families of Mercia, the daughter of Penwalh of Mercia. She lived as an anchoress at what is now Peakirk (“Pega’s church”) near Peterborough, not far from Guthlac’s hermitage at Crowland. When Guthlac realised that his end was near in 714, he invited her to his funeral. For this she sailed down the River Welland, curing a blind man from Wisbech on the way. She inherited Guthlac’s psalter and scourge, both of which, it was claimed, she later gave to Crowland Abbey. She went on pilgrimage to Rome and died there c.719. Ordericus Vitalis claimed that her relics survived in an unnamed Roman church in his day, and that miracles took place there.

It is said that her heart was returned to Peakirk and was kept as a relic in the church, contained in a heart stone, the broken remains of which, smashed by Cromwell’s troops, can be seen in the south aisle window.(Wikipedia) 

Orthodox Saints of the British Isles


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Journey through June – Saint Osyth of Essex – 15/26

Today I have drawn St Osyth (Osgyth) of Essex d.700.

Her feast day is 7 October and she is commemorated by the Orthodox, Anglican and Roman Catholic Church.

Her life

Alternative spellings of her name include Sythe, Othith and Ositha. Born of a noble family, she founded a priory near Chich which was later named after her.

Born in Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire (at that time part of Mercia), she was the daughter of Frithwald, a sub-king of Mercia in Surrey. Her mother was Wilburga, the daughter of the pagan King Penda of Mercia. Her parents, with St. Erconwald, founded Chertsey Abbey in AD 675.

Raised in the care of her maternal aunts, St Edith of Aylesbury and Edburga of Bicester, her ambition was to become an abbess, but she was too important as a political pawn to be set aside. She was forced by her father into a dynastic marriage with Sighere, King of Essex. While her husband ran off to hunt down a beautiful white stag, Osgyth persuaded two local bishops to accept her vows as a nun. Upon his return some days later, he reluctantly agreed to her decision and granted her some land at Chich near Colchester where she established a convent, and ruled as first abbess. She was beheaded by some raiding pirates, perhaps because she may have resisted being carried off.

Her later death was accounted a martyrdom by some, but Bede makes no mention of Saint Osgyth. The 13th-century chronicler Matthew Paris repeats some of the legend that had accrued around her name. The site of her martyrdom became transferred to the holy spring at Quarrendon. The holy spring at Quarrendon, mentioned in the time of Osgyth’s aunts, now became associated with her legend, in which Osgyth stood up after her execution, picking up her head like Saint Denis in Paris, and other cephalophoric martyrs and walking with it in her hands, to the door of a local convent, before collapsing there. Some modern authors link the legends of cephalophores miraculously walking with their heads in their hands to the Celtic cult of heads. (More details of her life at Wikipedia)


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Journey through June – Saint Melangell of Powys – 13/26

Today I have drawn St Melangell of Powys (d. 590)

Her feast day is 27 May and she is commemorated by the Orthodox, Anglican and Roman Catholic Church.

Her life

The daughter of an Irish king, she went to Powys in central Wales to become a hermit. The prince of Powys, Brochwel Ysgithrog, granted her land after meeting her on a hunting trip, and she founded a community of women, serving as abbess for 37 years. Her shrine remains at St Melangell’s Church, Pennant Melangell.

Her legend relates that she was the daughter of an Irish monarch, who had determined to marry her to a nobleman of his court. The princess had vowed celibacy. She fled from her father’s dominions and took refuge in this place, where she lived fifteen years without seeing the face of a man. Brochwel Yscythrog, Prince of Powys, being one day a hare hunting, pursued his game till he came to a great thicket; when he was amazed to find a virgin of surpassing beauty, engaged in deep devotion, with the hare he had been pursuing under her robe, boldly facing the dogs, who retired to a distance howling, notwithstanding all the efforts of the sportsmen to make them seize their prey. Even when the huntsman blew his horn, it stuck to his lips. Brochwel heard her story, and gave to God and her a parcel of lands, to be a sanctuary to all that fled there. He desired her to found an abbey on the spot. She did so, and died abbess at a good old age. She was buried in the neighbouring church, called Pennant, and from, her distinguished by the addition of Melangell. Her hard bed is shown in the cleft of a neighbouring rock. Her tomb was in a little chapel, or oratory, adjoining to the church, and now used as a vestry room. This room is still called ‘Cell-y-bedd’ or the Cell of the Grave. Her reliques as well as her image have been long since removed; but I think the last is still to be seen in the churchyard. The legend is perpetuated by some rude wooden carving of the Saint, with numbers of hares scuttling to her for protection. She properly became their Patroness. They were called ‘Oen Melangell’ (St. Monacella’s Lambs).

Thomas Pennant
There is an Orthodox Community in Manchester, England, named after her.


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Journey through June – St Keane (Ceinwen) of Cornwall – 11/26

Today I have drawn St Keane of Cornwall, a 5th century British saint. Her name is also spelled as Keyne, Kayane, Keyna, Cenau, Cenedion, Ceinwen.

Her feast day is  8 October and she is commemorated by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic church.

Keyne was one of the 12 daughters of the Welsh king King Brychan of Brycheiniog in what is now South Wales (A different source, De Situ Brecheniauc, says that he actually had 24 daughters, all of whom were saints). Although she was a great beauty and received many offers of marriage, Keyne took a vow of virginity and pursued a religious life (hence her Welsh name, Cain Wyry, or Keyne the Maiden). Her vita reports that she traveled widely, and is said to have founded several oratories, including Llangeinor in mid Glamorgan, Llangunnor and Llangain in Dyfed, and Rockfield (Llangennon) in Runston, Gwent. Eventually she is said to have crossed the Severn into Cornwall, where she resided as a hermitess for many years. The village of St Keyne in Cornwall, is named after her, and is the site of a church and a holy well which also take her name.

St Keyne's Well - - 1556016.jpg


Around 490, she is alleged to have visited her nephew Saint Cadoc at St Michael’s Mount. Cadoc persuaded her to return to Wales, and healing spring marked the location where she settled and eventually died. She died a virgin on 5 October in either 490 or 505. Llangeinor in Glamorgan has been proposed as a likely spot, as an ancient well is situated there, which is still said to have healing properties.


Saint Keyne’s feast is celebrated on 8 October, although it is also recorded as 30 September. She was the original patron saint of what is now St Martin-by-Looe (Penndrumm) and is linked with the River Kenwyn in Truro. However, her most enduring and romanticized legacy is linked to the holy well that takes its name from her, located in St Keyne, Cornwall. According to legend, whichever partner in a marriage drinks from the well first will have the upper hand in the marriage, and rule over the other. This story was known in the Middle Ages, and was memorialized in Robert Southey’s poem “The Well of St Keyne.”

Some sources credit her as the patron saint of Keynsham in Somerset, where she is said to resided near the banks of the Avon, which was swarming with serpents and uninhabitable. After Saint Keyne issued a fervent prayer, the serpents were transformed to stone, and the area became habitable. (Today, these are considered to be the fossilized remains of ammonites). However, a similar miracle is also attributed to St. Hilda, and it has been suggested that Keynsham instead takes its name from “Ceagin’s (Caega) Hamm.” (Wikipedia)

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Journey through June – Saint Hilda of Whitby – 8/26

Today I have drawn Saint Hilda of Whitby (c 614-680)

Her feast day is 17/18 November and she is recognised in the Orthodox, Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.

Her life (from Orthodoxwiki) Practically speaking, all our knowledge of St. Hilda is derived from the pages of Bede. She was the daughter of Hereric, the nephew of King Edwin of Northumbria, and she seems like her great-uncle to have become a Christian through the preaching of St. Paulinus about the year 627, when she was thirteen years old.

Moved by the example of her sister Hereswith, who, after marrying Ethelhere of East Anglia, became a nun at Chelles in Gaul, Hilda also journeyed to East Anglia, intending to follow her sister abroad. But St. Aidan recalled her to her own country, and after leading a monastic life for a while on the north bank of the Wear and afterwards at Hartlepool, where she ruled a double monastery of monks and nuns with great success, Hilda eventually undertook to set in order a monastery at Streaneshalch, a place to which the Danes a century or two later gave the name of Whitby.

Under the rule of St. Hilda the monastery at Whitby became very famous. The Holy Scriptures were specially studied there, and no less than five of the monastics became bishops, St. John, Bishop of Hexham, and still more St. Wilfrid, Bishop of York, rendering untold service to the Anglo-Saxon church at this critical period of the struggle with paganism. Here, in 664, was held the important synod at which King Oswiu, convinced by the arguments of St. Wilfrid, decided, among other issues, a manner of calculating the date for Northumbria’s observance of Pascha. St. Hilda herself later on seems to have sided with Archbishop Theodore against Wilfrid. The fame of St. Hilda’s wisdom was so great that from far and near monks and even royal personages came to consult her. Seven years before her death the saint was stricken down with a grievous fever which never left her till she breathed her last, but, in spite of this, she neglected none of her duties to God or to her spiritual children. She passed away most peacefully after receiving Eucharist, and the tolling of the monastery bell was heard miraculously at Hackness thirteen miles away, where also a devout nun named Begu saw the soul of St. Hilda borne to heaven by angels.

With St. Hilda is intimately connected the story of Caedmon, the sacred bard. When he was brought before St. Hilda she admitted him to take monastic vows in her monastery, where he most piously died.

The cultus of St. Hilda from an early period is attested by the inclusion of her name in the calendar of St. Willibrord, written at the beginning of the eighth century. It was alleged at a later date the remains of St. Hilda were translated to Glastonbury by King Edmund, but this is only part of the “great Glastonbury myth.” Another story states that St. Edmund brought her relics to Gloucester. There are a dozen or more old English churches dedicated to St. Hilda on the northeast coast, and “South Shields” is probably a corruption of St. Hilda.

Orthodox England: Commemoration of St Hilda of Whitby service texts

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Journey through June – Saint Frideswide of Oxford – 6/26

Today I have drawn Saint Frideswide of Oxford (650-727c)

Her feast day is 19 October and she is commemmorated in the Orthodox, Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches.

Her name is also sometimes written as Frithuswith  (Old English: Friðuswīþ; also known as Frideswide, Fridiswade, Frideswith, Fritheswithe, Frevisse, or simply Fris) She was an English princess and abbess.

An excerpt of her life from

“The future saint was born about 680 (according to another version, about 665) in western Oxfordshire, which was then a province of the large early English kingdom of Mercia, near the border with the kingdom of Wessex. Her father’s name was Dida (other forms: Didan and Didda), and her mother bore the name Sefrida (Saethryth). In all probability her parents were pious Christians. Dida was a sub-king of Mercia who ruled the area which included western Oxfordshire and the upper reaches of the River Thames in the same region. As a child little Frideswide was given by her parents to a woman of holy life called Elgitha, who brought her up at Didcot in Oxfordshire.

Under the influence of this woman young Frideswide came to love the Gospel, and she firmly decided to dedicate all her life to the service of God in purity and holiness. It was even said that the holy virgin Frideswide quickly learned by heart the whole Psalter at the age of seven. She began to live an extremely austere life when still a child. The teenager Frideswide ate only herbs and barley bread and drank only water. She kept vigil day and night and wanted to become a nun. The motto of Frideswide throughout her life was: “Whatever is not God is nothing.” Her mother died when she was still very young, and she returned to her father’s house. At that time a large part of Oxfordshire was all dense forest, while Oxford was still no more than a village and not widely known.

According to one version, Dida wanted to find a suitable husband for his beautiful and wise daughter, but learning that she vowed to remain a virgin and serve Christ in chastity, he approved her choice and at once arranged for her to be tonsured. According to another version, Dida knew of her decision from the very beginning: so he allotted lands at Oxford, Bampton and probably Eynsham to establish monastic communities and gave Oxford to Frideswide to rule. In any case, Frideswide, when still very young, was at the head of a community of devout nuns at Oxford, which soon became a double monastery (with communities of monks and nuns who lived separately but prayed in the same church) dedicated to the Mother of God.

All the late versions of Frideswide’s life recount how a prince (who is sometimes called a king or a sub-king) named Aelfgar (another form: Algar) sought Frideswide’s hand when she was already abbess of Oxford. The saint answered him that her only Bridegroom was Christ and she had taken monastic vows to serve Him her entire life. Furious, Aelfgar then decided to force the saint to marry him and even abduct her. Accounts of what happened later with Aelfgar’s plot vary, but in general all his evil intents failed by the grace of God. First he called his army of men to enter Oxford, take Frideswide and bring her forcibly to him. But when they approached the convent the men were suddenly blinded and all ran away in fear. On another occasion, Aelfgar arrived in Oxford himself, wishing to abduct the saint. Warned about this by an angel, Frideswide secretly fled, accompanied by two of her sisters. First they reached the River Thames and boarded a boat that had been miraculously prepared for them by Divine Providence. The nuns sailed along the River Thames until they arrived at a place that became their refuge for several years.”

Orthodox England – service to St Frideswide, wonderworker of Oxford by kind permission of Fr Andrew Phillips

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Journey through June – Saint Ethelburga of Barking – 5/26

Today I have drawn Saint Ethelburga of Barking

Her feast day is 11 October and she is commemmorated in the Orthodox, Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches.

Her life

St. Ethelburga (Aethelburh) was born into the royal family of East Anglia in the seventh century. She was the sister of St. Erconwald (May 13), who founded the monastery of Barking (Berecingum) in Essex. St. Ethelburga became the first abbess of this monastery. She led a virtuous life and guided those who were under her. It is said that many miracles took place at the monastery during her time.

Shortly before St Ethelburga’s death, a nun called Tortgith had a vision in which she saw a body wrapped in a shroud, and shining with a bright light. She watched as the body was drawn up to Heaven on cords which seemed brighter than gold. Sister Tortgith had no doubt that this vision signified the immanent death of one of the nuns. Not many days later, St. Ethelburga fell asleep in the Lord. Years later, when the nun Tortgith was dying, St. Ethelburga appeared to her and told her that the hour of her passing was at hand.

St Ethelburga of Barking

This St. Ethelburga should not be confused with another saint of the same name (April 5), who was married to the holy martyred King Edwin of Northumbria (October 12). Antiochian Church

British Saints commission icon

Slow and steady

As all mothers will know, we never quite achieve as much in a week as we hope. Last week I had hoped to make major strides with the icon of the Transfiguration but everyday duties intervened. We have given the house an early spring clean, I’m preparing for a small Christmas Fair at our school and just keeping all the plates spinning sometimes uses more energy than I have. On Sunday, we finally had our house blessed – we had a few friends here, as well as Fr Raphael (Pavouris), and it felt so wonderful to see the icons of our home ‘Church’ being blessed.

As a small diversion, I began the drawing for my next commission – a small icon of Ss Beaga (Beya, Bee) and Maura. More on these wonderful women to follow soon.


And a little more progress on a study I am doing in parallel with the Transfiguration – today, I wanted to paint the eyes, which make such a difference to the balance of tones in the face.