Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Cristening the apples

St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain

For forty days it will remain

St. Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.

I've been wittering for weeks about the lack of rain . . . at last, early this morning, we've had a decent shower of rain, in fact it's still raining lightly and the garden is looking thankful for it. It's 15th July, St Swithin's Day – if you're well versed in English proverbs you'll know the rhyme and will have heard it at many a Sport's Day or Fete held on that day whether the heavens opened or the sun shone.

St Swithin is a home-grown saint, the bishop of Winchester in Saxon times. He was a local boy who obviously loved the people and villages in his care, he built churches for them and planted apple trees. When he died in 862, his last request was granted and he was buried outside, where his grave would be trodden on and rained upon.

One hundred and nine years later the monks of Winchester decided to move Bishop Swithin's body to a splendid shrine inside the cathedral – I wonder if they'd heard of the popularity of St Jame's shrine at Santiago de Compostela and wanted to be part of the new fashion for pilgrimage? The body was dug up on 15 July 971 and during the great re-internment ceremony there was a huge storm . . . and it continued raining for forty days and forty nights!

Poor St Swithin, taken out of his dear Wessex soil to be venerated in a glitzy reliquary – the story has a recent parallel told in Gerontius, a moving play by Stephen Wyatt , it was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last week with Derek Jacobi as Cardinal Newman. Newman died in 1890 and, at his request, was buried with his close friend in a quiet graveyard near the place in which they had lived and worked; but as plans for his beatification gathered pace the grave was opened in 2008 to move the body to a tomb befitting a saint. Except there were no remains – only compost broken down by the rich damp soil.

St Swithin's symbols are apples and raindrops,
they are beautifully depicted here in a stained glass window
at St Swithin's church in Frettenham, Norfolk.
(Photograph © Mike Dixon, Norfolk Stained Glass
who kindly allowed me to use it here)

If it rains on 15 July, St Swithin
is christening the apples.

My garden is thankful on this damp, breezy
and cool summer morning.


  1. My allotment is very happy too.

    A fascinating post - thank you, Celia.

  2. oh gosh! I remember writing about this very saint a couple of years ago
    I do hope he's just blessing the apples!

  3. I mentioned St Swithun on my blog too today! I like it that you have given more information about him on your post. I also like the thought of him christening the apples!

  4. Oh wow yes, memory trip. Such a lovely moment spent here..xx

  5. Thank you for reminding me about this day, and its significance.

    Your green apple is quite lovely ...isn't nature splendid?

    I also very much like the design of that stained glass. It's good to know more about its inspiration.

    Now...are you working on a design involving rain and apples? Hope so! xo

  6. I'm doing little leaps and whoops of joy at the moment, as I've been waiting for rain for what seems like weeks. The birds (particularly blackbirds) are back, busier than ever on my lawn, picking out the wiggly wigglers, and to not have to go out and do watering has freed up a surprising amount of time. But apparently we're in for a hot, dry August (not sure how anybody can predict this far ahead, but there we are), so not sure St Swithin's Day is going to be particularly accurate this year...

  7. Is there a patron saint of Bullfinches? He's a quicker worker than St Swithin if so, hardly any apples here to bless! We've had a little more rain today and at every opportunity I go and stand in it. Blowing a gale (literally) here now, lots of exposed chicken-knickers! Lovely windows, just finished a stained glass course and am even more addicted than I was before.

  8. The good saint has seen fit to cause it to rain here too.
    I love the little wiggly rain drops in that window.

  9. Ooh I have learnt lots from this one Celia - thankyou so much! I had never heard of the christening of the apples


  10. We in New Mexico finally received a long overdue rain. What a nice coincidence.

  11. What a great post, and what a lovely stained glass window. Although it would be tempting to wish for 40 days and nights of rain right now, I'd be happy with just one good downpour!

  12. I know I always seem to harp on about the climate in the Northwest but I've just caught up with you r last dozen posts from the crystal tumblers with sparkly berry jelly, to the walk and rest in the church, and the hot cat, and there is a definite lush and heat theme. I say lush as the story here couldn't be more different! I planted some sweet pea plants in tubs about three months ago and thy STILL haven't flowered. The wind blew and the rain fell and they blew over so on friday I deposited them among the weeds in what passes for our front garden border.
    Wish me luck!
    I do enjoy reading about the 'other half' live! (The sunny half)

  13. I like this way better then our "groundog day"-


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