St Osyth of Chich, Martyr
(Osith, Osgyth)

7 October

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Died at Chich (Saint Osyth), Essex, England, c. 675-700.
All that is known about her is that she was the wife of Sighere, king of the East Saxons, and that she founded the abbey of Chich, where she ended her days. In the 12th century currency was given to various legends. These tell us that Osyth was the daughter of a Mercian chief named Frithwald and his wife Wilburga, who was the daughter of King Penda. She was raised in a convent, perhaps at Aylesbury, and wanted to become a nun herself. Her parents, however, married her to Sighere, who may have been the apostate named by Saint Bede (f.d. May 25), who was later reconciled to the Church by Bishop Jaruman. (King Sighere's uncle was King Saint Sebbi (f.d. September 1), of whose dignified death the Venerable Bede gives account.)

The marriage was never consummated because when Sighere became distracted by his passion for hunting, Osyth ran away and sought the protection of Bishops Acca of Dunwich and Bedwin of Elmham. Sighere, not wanting to force his reluctant bride, allowed them to give her the habit and himself donated land at Chich on a creek of the Colne for a monastery. It is related that she was captured and martyred by Danish pirates, who beheaded her.

The village of Saint Osyth in Essex, originally called Chich, has its name from this woman, as do several other localities. Her relics were returned to her convent before 1000 AD from Aylesbury, where they were taken during the Danish invasions. Her shrine at Chich is mentioned in the treatise "On the resting-places of saints" (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Walsh).

Osyth is shown as a queen with her crown at her feet or on a table before her; sometimes carrying her severed head. Venerated at Colchester (Roeder).

Service to our Venerable Mother Osyth, Abbess of Chich

Pictures of the 14th century St Osyth Priory

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content © 2008, Ambrose Mooney
layout © 2008, Kathleen Hanrahan and Mo! Langdon
Page last updated: 8 October 2008
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