St. Swithun: A Romantic Rival for Valentine

Across the world many people associate love and romance with one particular day – Valentines Day, which is celebrated on the 14th of February. But there might be a second day, later in the year, which is just as romantic as indicated by Netflix’s recent success ‘One Day’. Fans of the show will of course immediately recognise the day in question: St. Swithin’s (or Swithun’s) Day celebrated on the 15th of July. There is a well-known English nursery rhyme associated with this day, which goes as follows:

"St Swithin's Day, if it does rain

Full forty days, it will remain

St Swithin's Day, if it be fair

For forty days, t'will rain no more"

Photograph by Barry Cawston

But what does this have to do with love? To gain a better understanding of the romantic symbolism of this day and its rhyme, let us travel back in time – far, far back – to the 15th of July 971. Bishop Aethelwold of Winchester has just moved the body of his predecessor Swithun – who was Bishop of Winchester from 852 to 862 – from his original resting spot in the churchyard into a more prominent location inside Winchester Cathedral and according to contemporary writers a legendary storm ensues as a result of this move. In his effort to raise St. Swithun to greater prominence and to enlist his aid in the revival of Benedictine monasticism in England, Aethelwold had ignored Swithun’s wish to be buried in the churchyard where rain and the footsteps of his brethren might fall upon his grave and had thus evoked his predecessors ire – according to legend. Whatever happened in 971, St. Swithun became forever associated with the weather and not just weather of any kind, he became specifically associated with weather that lasts.

Therefore, people considering romantic ventures on St. Swithun’s Day might want to bear in mind that what happens on St. Swithun’s Day is built to last. But the legend of the storm following Aethelwolds relocation of St. Swithun and the longevity of ‘rain or shine’ following St. Swithun’s day could also be symbolic for the long term consequences of ones actions. St. Swithun’s Day might be the perfect day to sow the seeds for a future harvest, but while the St. Swithun myth seems to advise swift action, it also advises caution. As much as the weather seems beyond our control, the St. Swithin’s Day prediction serves as a reminder that what you do today might have consequences long beyond the moment and the action itself. So, perhaps, being imbued with the hope for longevity, St. Swithun’s Day is the perfect day for taking major romantic steps, such as proposals or weddings or for those of us not currently in a committed relationship for taking action and taking an active first step towards love –with good sense and St. Swithun’s wind under ones wings.

And it just so happens that for the first time ever on 15th July 2024, anyone looking for love in Worcester might find it at St. Swithun’s church. With generous support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Grade I Listed Church has been recently renovated and re-launched as Sound & Art at St Swithun’s, with regular events and gigs being held at the venue and now, in what is well and truly a CCT first, a speed dating event.

Speed daters will rotate every 4 minutes, moving from pew to pew. The bar will be open so guests can enjoy a drink before the speed dating begins or continue conversations over a drink afterwards.

Doors open at 6:30pm for a 7pm start. Booking is essential, as places for this speed dating event are very limited, and tickets are expected to sell out quickly. Guests can book their tickets from 2nd July via Eventbrite: