St Wulfstan lived c. 1008 – 1095.
He served as Bishop of Worcester under the last two Saxon kings and the first two Norman kings. After the Norman Conquest he was responsible for the dismantling of the old Saxon cathedral and the building of a new one, of which the crypt is the main part still surviving today. He was at once venerated as a saint by the people of Worcester, though he was not formally canonized until 1203. Alongside the tomb of St Oswald, his shrine was a place of pilgrimage until the Reformation.
Wulfstan was born in Long Itchington, Warwickshire. He became a monk at Worcester Cathedral priory, he was a novice-master, then cantor, sacrist and finally prior. Eventually he was promoted to the Bishopric in 1062. He was renowned holy man and spiritual advisor. He was friend to the Scottish royal family, and also the confessor of King Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king, and his family.
After the Battle of Hastings, Wulfstan was allowed to remain as Bishop. This enabled him to maintain Anglo-Saxon values in the cathedral for many years after the invasion, and to fight for the rights of Worcester Cathedral in legal disputes over lands and property.
Wulfstan found a special place in local people’s affections. He took his pastoral duties very seriously, caring for the poor and preaching widely. He started building a new cathedral in 1084, replacing the Anglo-Saxon one.
St Wulfstan was famed for his healing and prophetic abilities. He even preached against the slave trade in Bristol, then part of his Diocese, and thankfully managed to end this practise for a long while.
After his death, his life was written down first in Anglo-Saxon and then later in Latin. Local people visited his tomb and soon miracles were recorded. On 21st April 1203 he was canonised as a saint. Together with Saint Oswald, Worcester’s other great Anglo-Saxon saint, their bodies were transferred to shrines in the cathedral. Throughout the Middle Ages pilgrim, including several kings such as King John, came to Worcester to pray before St Wulfstan’s shrine. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Reformation, Wulfstan’s and Oswald’s shrines and tombs were destroyed. Their bones were covered in lead, and then buried near the High Altar of Worcester Cathedral.
This is the collect for St Wulfstan’s Day:
who raised up Wulfstan to be a bishop among your people
and a leader of your Church:
help us, after his example,
to live simply,
to work diligently,
and to make your kingdom known;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.