Today is St Werburgh's Day. Werburgh is the patron saint of the city of Chester and so her story features prominently in our pilgrimage work. Her story is a good one but, sadly, not well known amongst Cestrians. So we're trying to change that through our living history and storytelling work. And this year, her tale will be amongst those in a major exhibition at the Grosvenor Museum - 'Discover a Medieval City: Places, Voices, Journeys'.
Her most famous miracle took place when she was at Weedon Bec on one of the abbey's farms, and Werburgh was helping sow seeds for crops in an attempt to avert the famine which was ravaging the land, when a great flock of wild geese descended and began to eat the seeds. Werburgh was angered as the food was intended for the poor and so she chased the geese and penned them into a sheep pen. Although the geese had wings, they did not fly out of the pen, and you might consider that a small miracle in itself. Werburgh told the geese they should be kept there for one night as punishment, but they were God's creatures and wouldn't be harmed and would be released the next day.
That evening, one of Werburgh's servants, walking past the pen, decided he would like some goose stew and so took one of the geese, killed it and ate it. When Werburgh found out, she gathered what was left of the stew, the bones and the skin and feathers and began to pray. The goose was restored to life! It joined its fellows and when they were released from the pen, they never came back to trouble the fields again. And that is the story of Werburgh and the goose.
In the fourteenth century her shrine was reworked to attract more pilgrims and the quire had newly carved misericords, including one depicting the miracle with the geese. Her feast day being in winter on 3rd February would never attract too many pilgrims so it was decided that the translation day, when her relics had been moved, had been 21st June. This idea was nothing new, it had also happened with Thomas Becket in Canterbury for the same reason. So Werburgh got a second feast day, and this one at the start of the great Midsummer Fair in Chester.
You'll be hearing more about Midsummer Fair and its associated Minstrels' Court on here soon...