The birth of St. Swithin:
St. Swithin was born of a noble family, the friend of King and Princes, yet he remained a very noble man. This was why he wanted to be buried outside the Old Minister Church and not in a place of honour inside.
Swithin spent some of his early life working as a chaplain to the young Prince Ethelwulf, son of Egbert, King of Wessex. "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22 verse 6).
Bishop of Winchester:
Swithin was appointed Bishop of Winchester (then capital of Wessex) in 852. Wessex became the most powerful Kingdom in England, suffering the first Viking raids at this time. Indeed Swithin built a wall around the Minister Church to keep out the Vikings.
Swithin, the simple man:
Despite his importance as a Bishop he remained a simple man who often travelled by foot and at night in order to avoid ceremony. This is almost a mirror image of John the Baptist's humble life style in the wilderness "Preparing the way of the Lord" (Luke 7 verse 27).
Swithin, the compassionate man:
A great lover of people he was renowned for his compassion and charity. This is illustrated by the legend that once when a market woman was jostled by a ruffian and dropped her basket of eggs, Swithin 'blessed the eggs and they were made whole and sound'.
Swithin, his death:
Swithin died on 2 July 862 and asked to be buried in the cemetery of the Old Minister where man could walk over his grave and rain fall on it so his grave was placed by the west door of the Cathedral. However, when Ethelwood succeeded to the see of Winchester in 964 it was planned that Swithin's remains should be translated to a shrine inside the Cathedral. This was to take place on 15 July 971, however exceptionally heavy rain delayed the ceremony for 40 days. This is the origin of the legend that rain on St. Swithin's day, 15 July, means rain for the following 40 days.
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 no mair'.
St. Swithin, the legend:
His coat of arms refer to the weather legend above. Rain is represented by silver drops on the blue chief. Three green apples on a silver field is an allusion to the legend that harvest is bountiful if St. Swithin wets the orchards. In England July 15 is known as "Apple Christening Day". It is said that after rain on this day no matter how small or green the apples they are for to eat.