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a century, till it was finally made a house for Benedictine monks by S. Ethelwold in 963.
Winchester, the Venta Belgarum of the Romans, was the capital city of the West Saxons. Under the Christian kings of that race, and afterwards under the Danish sovereigns, it was enriched with many noble religious foundations. Besides the cathedral priory, there was a convent for Benedictine nuns, endowed by K. Alfred and his queen in the end of the ninth century, and dedicated in honour of our Ladye and S. Edburga. The same prince founded the monastery of Newminster, under the invocation of the Holy Trinity, S. Mary, and S. Peter, and his son Edward finished it in 901. It was originally built close to the priory; but so much inconvenience arose from this, that in 1110 it was removed by K. Henry I. to Hyde, without the walls of the city, on the north side.
After the conquest many other munificent gifts were bestowed on the church of Winchester. Thus, in 1132, Henry de Blois, brother of K. Stephen, endowed the hospital of S. Cross, about a mile from the city. It was much enlarged by Cardinal Beaufort in the reign of Henry VI. William de Wykeham, the founder of New College, in Oxford, built another in Winchester, in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, about the year 1387. Besides these principal houses, there were several smaller hospitals and colleges; and the orders of Augustinian, Black, Grey, and White Friars, had each a convent in the city. There were, in all, sixteen houses of religious, from whose revenues a golden harvest was reaped when the age of sacrilege arrived. Only three of them survive, and these in an impoverished
condition. And now Winchester is a deserted place, and we may truly say of it, as of many ancient cities and towns in England, once so joyous, "How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people; how is she become as a widow, she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts; all her gates are desolate; her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness1."
There is a popular notion, that if it rain on S. Swithun's day it will continue to do so for six weeks. None of the stories which are told in explanation of it are satisfactory; and they seem only to prove the total ignorance which prevails regarding it. And yet its being so generally believed, at least in this country, makes it probable that it depends on some physical yet unknown cause. Any story which would connect it with the life of S. Swithun can have no possible application to the 15th July of the present style.
And must each shrine of simple state,
In purer days devote,
To holy names yet consecrate,
Where holy voices float,
In dust beneath their feet be trod
Then be it ;-of thy sons the while,
Nor to the age conform.
So for our land their prayers may rise,
Lyra Apostolica, p. 168.
1 Lamentations, f. 1. 4.
S. Margaret, Virgin and Martyr.
END OF THE THIRD CENTURY.
We know little more of this holy virgin than her name, and that after witnessing a good confession before a pagan governor, she was honoured to die for her Lord. Her martyrdom took place at Antioch, in Pisidia, probably during the tenth general persecution in the end of the third century. It is said that she was the daughter of a heathen priest, and was converted by a Christian nurse; but of this there is no proof. Neither is there any better authority for the Acts which bear her name. They were written many ages after her decease, and therefore want the testimony of those who lived near the time to confirm them, which genuine Acts require.
It is remarkable, that from very early ages her Feast has been observed by the Catholic Church with singular honour. The Greeks commemorate her, on the 17th of July, under the name of S. Marina, which occurs in their oldest Kalendars. She was invoked in litanies in England in the seventh century. The council of Oxford, in 1222, appointed her Feast to be kept as a holiday of the second rank, on which agricultural labour alone was permitted. And by the council of Worcester in 1240 the women of England were enjoined to abstain from servile work upon it. She is honoured with a special office in all the Western Missals and Breviaries.
It is therefore impossible to doubt that, though we know little of this saint, the Church of Christ has
with good reason deemed her worthy of great reverence. We often find that those saints, of whom least is recorded, are most universally honoured. S. George, the patron of England, is another remarkable instance of this.
S. Margaret is generally represented as bearing a cross, with which she is subduing a dragon; to signify that by the virtue of the cross she overcame the temptations of the devil.
"The love of integrity now invites us," says S. Ambrose, "to speak of virginity. It is laudable, not because it is found in the martyrs, but because itself makes martyrs. Who then can by human understanding comprehend that which not even nature has included in her laws? or who can express in natural language what is above the use of nature. It has come down from heaven, to be imitated on earth. And not unworthily has she sought in heaven for her rule of life, who has found her Spouse in heaven. She, soaring above the clouds, and the sky, and the angels, and the stars, found the Word of God in the bosom of the Father, and has embraced Him with her whole heart. Who then can leave so infinite a good, having once found it? Thy Name is ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.' This interpretation is not mine, for it is written, that those who neither marry nor are given in marriage shall be as the angels of God in heaven. Let no one therefore wonder if they are compared with the angels, who are united to the Lord of angels.
"Who can deny that this life came down from heaven, and was not easily found upon earth, until God had descended into the members of our earthly
bodies? Then the Virgin conceived in her womb, and the Word was made flesh, that flesh might become God. But some one will say, even Elias is found to have preserved the purity of the virgin life. True and therefore he was carried up to heaven in a chariot of fire, and appeared with the Lord in glory, and will come as the precursor of His advent'."
A great writer, after setting forth with saddest truth the lot of suffering which has fallen to woman since the disobedience of Eve, has these remarks: "From this reality of degradation and sorrow, all the ideas communicated by the Christian religion were calculated, indeed, to deliver woman; but it should be remembered, that it was the doctrine of virginity, as a French writer truly observes, which has more than all contributed to her emancipation. Before this doctrine was delivered or confirmed by Christianity, the woman could not treat upon equal terms with the man; but by making the virginal state a new condition, and that independent of all positive institutions, Christianity changed every thing; for, from the first moment that there was a free and voluntary condition of life for women, they had a personal importance; and this doctrine of virginity, which seems fatal to marriage, on the contrary constitutes its new force and its grandeur; for, from this moment, it was what it had never been before, a free and reciprocal alliance. The tone and manners of society, at present, sufficiently prove that the modern philosophic systems, by attaching ridicule to the virginal
1 De Virginibus, lib. i.