Calendar of Scottish Saints – Saint William, Martyr

Saint William of RochesterArticle

A.D. (about) 1201. It is a fact, unknown perhaps to many, that Saint William, whose shrine in Rochester Cathedral was the object of great devotion in Catholic ages, must be reckoned among Scottish saints. He was a native of Perth, and for many years followed the trade of baker. In his youth he fell into careless and irreligious ways; but being converted he began to be zealous in good works. He became especially remarkable for his charity to the poor, bestowing upon them in alms a tenth part of all the bread he made.

To satisfy his devotion he started on a pilgrim age to Jerusalem, taking as his companion a youth whom he had found in the streets, as an infant deserted by his mother, and whom he had carried home and brought up as his own son.

The two made their way through England, and having passed through Rochester were on their road to Canterbury, when the youth, led by avarice, yielded to the temptation to murder and rob his benefactor. Striking the saint a blow on the head from behind, he afterwards despatched him with an axe, and then made off with his booty.

The dead body remained for some days lying off the road, when it was discovered by a mad woman who was roaming about there. In insane sport she crowned the head with flowers, and afterwards transferred the wreath to her own brow, when she was instantly restored to sanity. The miracle becoming known, the sacred remains were reverently laid to rest in Rochester Cathedral. The tomb of the saint soon became famous on account of the numerous graces obtained there through prayer. After his canonization by Innocent IV in 1256, pilgrimages to Rochester grew more and more frequent, and to this day may be seen the steps worn hollow by the constant press of pilgrims to the shrine. So generous were their offerings that they sufficed to rebuild the choir and transepts of the cathedral.

This day is probably the anniversary of the finding of Saint William’s relics.

MLA Citation

  • Father Michael Barrett, OSB. “Saint William, Martyr”. The Calendar of Scottish Saints, 1919. CatholicSaints.Info. 26 May 2014. Web. 8 December 2019. <>