Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Oswald, Bishop of Worcester and Archbishop of York

Article

A.D. 992.

Saint Oswald was nephew of Saint Odo, archbishop of Canterbury, and to Oskitell, bishop first of Dorcester, afterwards of York. He was educated by Saint Odo, and made dean of Winchester; but passing into France, took the monastic habit at Fleury. Being recalled to serve the church, he succeeded Saint Dunstan in the see of Worcester about the year 959. He shone as a bright star in this dignity, and established a monastery of monks at Westberry, a village in his diocess. He was employed by duke Aylwin in superintending his foundation of the great monastery of Ramsey, in an island formed by marshes and the River Ouse in Huntingdonshire, in 972. Saint Oswald was made archbishop of York in 974, and he dedicated the church of Ramsey under the names of the Blessed Virgin, Saint Benedict, and all holy virgins. Nothing of this rich mitered abbey remains standing except an old gate-house, and a neglected statue of the founder, Aylwin, with keys and a ragged staff in his hand to denote his office; for he was cousin to the glorious king Edgar, the valiant general of his armies, and the chief judge and magistrate of the kingdom, with the title of alderman of England, and half king, as the historian of Ramsey usually styles him. Saint Oswald was almost always occupied in visiting his diocess, preaching without intermission, and reforming abuses. He was a great encourager of learning and learned men. Saint Dunstan obliged him to retain the see of Worcester with that of York. Whatever intermission his function allowed him he spent at Saint Mary’s, a church and monastery of Benedictins, which he had built at Worcester, where he joined with the monks in their monastic exercises. This church from that time became the cathedral. The saint, to nourish in his heart the sentiments of humility and charity, had everywhere twelve poor persons at his table, whom he served, and also washed and kissed their feet. After having sat thirty-three years he fell sick at Saint Mary’s in Worcester, and having received the Extreme-unction and Viaticum, continued in prayer, repeating often, “Glory be to the Father,” etc., with which words he expired amidst his monks, on the 29th of February, 992. His body was taken up ten years after and enshrined by Adulph his successor, and was illustrated by miracles. It was afterwards translated to York on the 15th of October, which day was appointed his principal festival.

Saint Oswald made quick progress in the path of perfect virtue, because he studied with the utmost earnestness to deny himself and his own will, listening attentively to that fundamental maxim of the Eternal Truth which Saint Bennet, of whose holy order he became a bright light, repeats with great energy. This holy founder declares in the close of his rule, that, He who desires to give himself up to God, must trample all earthly things under his feet, renounce everything that is not God, and die to all earthly affections, so as to attain to a perfect disengagement and nakedness of heart, that God may fill and entirely possess it, in order to establish therein the kingdom of his grace and pure love for ever. And in his prologue he cries out aloud, that he addresses himself only to him who is firmly resolved in all things to deny his own will, and to hasten with all diligence to arrive at his heavenly kingdom.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Oswald, Bishop of Worcester and Archbishop of York”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 27 February 2013. Web. 23 September 2018. <>