Public worship has returned to Winchester Cathedral in time for St Swithun’s Day on Wednesday 15 July.
Swithun (800-862) often gets a mention in the weather forecast at this time of the summer thanks to the saying:
St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.
This derives from the report that a violent storm broke as Swithun’s body was being moved on 15 July 971 from his outdoor grave to a shrine inside the Old Minster which preceded today’s Norman cathedral church.
Before the change in calendar 15 July would have fallen on today’s 26 July so the forty days refers to the possibility of a wet August which is not unknown.
Pilgrims setting out from Winchester would have been able to visit Swithun’s shrine containing his body knowing that at Canterbury they would find his head.
This skull is now in Évreux Cathedral in Normandy although not displayed.
Pilgrims starting at London’s Southwark Cathedral can look for the figure of St Swithun in the Great Screen at the east end.