3 August 2023


Oxford was not always Oxford. Once upon a time, it was Oxenford, from which it gets its Latin name, Oxonia (can anybody explain why the locative seems always to have been Oxonii?).

That was in the days when the site of Oxford was the lowest point at which a muddy oxherd could chivvy his recalcitrant oxen across the ford in London River. It was paired with nearby Swinford, the lowest point at which a muddy swineherd ...

Is 'swineherd' a real word? Or should we say 'Hog-ward' or even use its later form 'Howard'?

Anyway, back in those mud-encrusted days, Abingdon, a few miles South of Oxford, was far more culturally significant. BTW: in my reading, the name appears historically to have been Abendon, because it was latinised as Abendonia. 'Abingdon' looks to me like gentrified 'correction' of the name.

A few yards from the River, was Abendon Abbey.

In the Martyrologium Romanum, August 1 includes S Ethelwold, later bishop of Winchester. He had previously been the restorer of Abendon Abbey, which had fallen upon poor times. He died in 984 on August 1. In the Novus Ordo calendar of the Diocese of Portsmouth, he is optionally observed in Winchester and Abendon on August 3.

I'm not sure that S Ethelwold would have approved of me. Like most monastic reformers in the Anglo-Saxon Church, he was not keen on married clergy.

Of his Abbey, not one stone survives upon another. 

May he pray for us all, in our own new Dark Age.


Inutilissimus Servus said...

"locative case for 'Oxford' is either Oxoniae (the town) or Oxonii (usually referring to the University), both genitive singulars, the one of Oxonia (s.f.I), the other of Oxonium,-ii (s.n.II)"
--"A Grammatical Dictionary of Botanical Latin," https://www.mobot.org/mobot/latindict/keyDetail.aspx?keyWord=oxford

motuproprio said...

The monks of Abendon were zealous educators and gave his first education to St Edmund, a pioneer of the'New Learning' at the University of Oxenford, later Canon Treasurer of New Sarum as the new cathedral was being erected; he preached across England for the Sixth Crusade, and then became Archbishop of Canterbury. Having fallen out with King Henry III for maintaining the rights of the Church he was exiled to France, where he died. His shrine at Pontigny exists to this day.

David J Critchley said...

Some portions of the abbey survive, most particularly the gatehouse. Of course, none of them dates back to the time of St Ethelwold, but then we may reasonably wonder whether in 1540, prior to the dissolution, there were any surviving architectural elements contemporary with St Ethelwold.