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David Ford, History EditorTours > Winchester Cathedral

Tour the Winchester Cathedral
by David Nash Ford BA, Editor, History on Britannia

St. Swithun Shrine

The charitable St. Swithun is the best known of the many Bishops of Winchester. He is said to have been so favoured by the Lord that he was able to perform miracles even in his own lifetime. He died in 862 and was buried in the graveyard of the Old Minster (precursor of the present Cathedral).

Visiting devotees eventually caused his holy body to be brought inside the Old Minster and encased in a shrine of gold. This was transferred to the present Cathedral upon its completion in the 11th century and pilgrims continued to flock to Swithun's side throughout the Middle Ages. The shrine stood above the high altar on a raised 'feretory platform' which still exists behind the great screen. With the erection of the latter obscuring the view of the shrine in the 1460s, it was moved to the more usual position behind the altar. It was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538, though fragments are on display in the Triforium Gallery. Today an ironwork representation of the shrine stands on its old spot, between the chantry chapels of Bishop Waynflete and Cardinal Beaufort.

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