Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Wistan, Prince of Mercia, Martyr


Witlas, king of Mercia in England, from the year 826 to 839, had a son named Wimund, whom he survived. Both were buried in the abbey of Rependon, called Repton, in Derbyshire. Wimund left a son named Wistan; but on account of the Danish wars, this prince being then a child, was set aside, and Bertulph, brother to Witlas, placed on the throne, by the consent of the thanes or noblemen, and by the authority of Ethelwolph, king of the West-Saxons, to whom Mercia was then tributary. Wistan turned all his thoughts towards a heavenly kingdom which will have no end; but Bertulph, like another Herod, feared lest Wistan should be called to the crown, at least at his death, and contrived to have him treacherously assassinated. His son Berfert or Brithfard, whom he designed to leave his heir, perpetrated the crime. Having invited the pious prince to meet him at a place called from that time, to this day, says Capgrave, Wistanostowe, whilst the saint saluted him with a kiss of peace, he took out a sword which he carried secretly under his cloak, and with a violent blow cut off the upper part of his head. One of the assassin’s attendants despatched the martyr by stabbing him through the body. This happened on the 1st of June, 849. Before the end of that year Ethelwolph, alleging that Bertulph was not sufficiently accomplished in the art of war to defend the country against the infidels, deposed him, and bestowed the crown on Burrhed, the last king of Mercia. The body of Saint Wistan was buried by the care of his mother Enfleda, daughter of Celwulph, at Repton, and honoured with many miracles. It was some years after translated to the monastery of Evesham.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Wistan, Prince of Mercia, Martyr”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 26 May 2013. Web. 17 May 2021. <>