Saturday 6 November 2010

St Wystan

I believe that I am correct in saying that there are only four churches in Derbyshire named after Anglo Saxon saints; St Oswald, in Ashbourne, two St Alkmund's, in Derby and in Duffield and this one in Repton, named after St Wystan.

Oddly, we know more about Wystan after his death than we do before it.

Wystan, who is also known as Wigston, was a Mercian prince, son of Wigmund and Ælfflæd and grandson to King Wiglaf. In 849, Beorhtwulf arranged the marriage of his own son, Beorhtfrith, to Wystan's mother. This was a clear attempt to gain succession to the Mercian throne and Wystan objected to the match. As a result, Beorhtwulf had Wystan murdered.

Wystan's remains were buried in the mausoleum at Repton and that is when odd things began to happen. A column of light appeared, shooting up into the air from the place where Wystan was buried and remaining for thirty days. This led to the canonisation of Wystan, which in turn led to the visits of pilgrims, to the extent that new stairs had to be cut to the burial chamber allowing free flow through the crypt; a Saxon one way system.

When the Vikings invaded and wintered here (873-74), Wystan's body was taken away by escaping monks, but returned again after the Vikings left. Then eventually, King Cnut (1016-35), had the remains of St Wystan moved to Evesham, where it is said that further miracles took place.

The crypt of St Wystan was long buried and forgotten, until in 1779 it was rediscovered by a workman who, whilst digging a grave in the chancel, quite literally fell through its roof. Over the centuries, other parts of the church building have been added or altered, particularly through the 13th and 14th centuries. Then, during the 15th century, the tower and spire were constructed, rising to a combined height of 212 feet...

... exactly the same height as the tower of Derby cathedral!


  1. Loved all of the photos. That tale sounds more like folklore than the real deal. Is it true?

  2. What interesting photos. Don't you love all those old names? The Great Dane would be quite comfortable in that crowd!

  3. Facinating! It is hard to imagine those early times as real.