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Deposition of the Precious Robe of the Theotokos in Blachernae. In the late Fifth Century, two patricians and brethren on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land lodged with an old widow, a Christian of Jewish descent. Seeing the many miracles wrought at a small shrine in her house, they pressed her until she revealed to them that she had the raiment of the most holy Theotokos, kept in a small coffer. Our Lady had had two virgins who attended on her in her lifetime before her holy dormition and she gave each of them one of her divine garments as a blessing. The widow was of the family of one of those two virgins and the precious robe had come down through the generations into her hands. With the permission of God, that this holy relic might be had for the profit of many, the two men took the garment by stealth to Blachernae near Constantinople, building a church in honour of the Apostles Peter and Mark and secretly enshrining the garment there. When the multitude of miracles that were worked became known, a magnificent church was built and enlarged when the holy raiment was found. The church was raised up immediately after it had burned down in 1070 and again in 1434. From that time, it remained as a small house of prayer together with a renowned holy spring. After the Seventh Century, the name Blachernae was given to other churches and monasteries by their pious founders, out of reverence for this famous church in Constantinople. In the church, the Byzantine Emperor John Catacuzene was crowned in 1345 and in 1347 the Council of Constantinople was convened to excommunicate Gregory Akindynos (Γρηγόριος Ἀκίνδυνος), the Bulgarian Byzantine theologian who was involved in the theological dispute surrounding the Doctrine of Uncreated Light. Image: goarch.org.
Prayer O Ever-Virgin Theotokos, shelter of mankind, thou hast bestowed upon thy people a mighty investure, even thine immaculate body’s raiment and sash, which by thy seedless childbirth have remained incorrupt for in thee nature and time are made new. Wherefore, we implore thee to grant peace to the world and great mercy to our souls. The sacred robe that covered thy sacred body hast thou graciously bestowed on all the faithful, O pure Virgin, as a robe of divine incorruption. As we celebrate with love its august deposition, we cry to thee with fear, O graced of God: Rejoice, O modest one, boast of the Christian race. Amen
Heiliger Otto von Bamberg (St Otto of Bamberg, Święty Otton z Bambergu, Apostle of Pomerania) (c1060-1139). Feast Day for noble Franconian confessor who restored and completed Bamberg Cathedral after it had been damaged by fire in 1081, improved the cathedral school, expanded the town and rebuilt the Monastery of St Michael after it was destroyed with the town by an 1117 earthquake. He supervised the construction of the Eleventh-Century Speyer Cathedral, established numerous monasteries and built churches throughout Pomerania. Among his great accomplishments was his peaceful and successful missionary work to the Pomeranians, after several previous forcible attempts by the Polish and the Spanish to convert Pomerania to Christianity had failed. As the official papal legate, he converted around 20.000 pagans and was appointed Bishop of Bamberg in 1102. He led a model, simple and frugal life but did much to improve his ecclesiastical and temporal realms. At the 1121 Congress of Würzburg, he successfully negotiated the 1122 Concordat of Worms peace treaty. Returning to Bamberg in 1125, he found some pagan customs reasserting themselves and in 1128 he converted all the nobles and sent priests from Bamberg to serve in Pomerania. His plan to consecrate a bishop for Pomerania was thwarted by the bishops of Magdeburg and Gniezno but, after Otto’s death, his former companion Adalbert of Pomerania was consecrated as Bishop of Wolin in 1140. The area of West Prussia around Gdańsk was Christianized via Pomerania and the monastery of Oliwa was established at Gdańsk. East Prussia was later Christianized via Riga by the Teutonic Knights. When Otto died on 30 June 1139, he was buried in Michaelsberg Abbey, Bamberg and his name was recorded in the Roman martyrology on 2 July. Image: commons.wikimedia.org.
St Swithun (Swiþhun, Swithunus) (c800-62). Feast Day in Norway, and formerly in medieval Wales, commemorating the death of the Hampshire Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Winchester. Although he was known for his piety and zeal in building new churches or restoring old ones and he is recorded as a witness to nine charters, the earliest dated 854, Swithun’s historical importance as Bishop is overshadowed by his reputation for posthumous miracle-working. On his deathbed, Swithun begged that he should be buried outside the north wall of his Cathedral where passers-by should pass over his grave and raindrops from the eaves fall upon it. His remains were translated to an indoor shrine in the Winchester Old Minster on 15 July 971 and Swithun was adopted as patron of the church, formerly dedicated to St Peter and St Paul. His remains were later divided between a number of smaller shrines, with his head being taken in Medieval times to Canterbury Cathedral and his arm to Peterborough Abbey. His main shrine was transferred to the new Norman Cathedral at Winchester in 1093 but his empty tomb in the ruins of the Old Minster was also popular with pilgrims. A tremendous downpour of rain on St Swithun’s Day 1315 led to the tradition that if it rains on Winchester’s Saint Swithun’s bridge on 15 July it is likely to rain for the following forty days and forty nights: “St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain, for forty days it will remain, St Swithun’s day if thou be fair, for forty days ’twill rain nae mare.” There were pagan and prehistoric days of weather augury and St Cewydd is now remembered as the Welsh Rain Saint on 1 July, as are for the same reason in France: his Sixth-Century contemporaries St Gildas (Gweltaz), a British monk and historian who founded the monastery of Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys in Brittany and St Medard (Méard) the Picard Bishop of Noyon; and the Fourth-Century St Urban, the Bishop of Langres. Also: the Second-Century Milanese martyrs Sts Gervase and Protais; in Flanders the young Eleventh-Century Flemish martyress St Godelieve (Godeliève, Sint-Godelieve); and in Germany the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus on Seven Sleepers’ Day (Siebenschläfertag). St Swithun’s major shrine in Winchester Cathedral was demolished in 1538 during the English Reformation but a modern representation of it now stands on the site. There are over forty churches dedicated to St Swithun in the south of England, Lincoln, Worcester and Shropshire. Also, in western Norway where Stavanger Cathedral is dedicated to him and several schools and institutions are named after him. Venerated in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Anglican Communion. Feast Day in UK 15 July, with a Church of England Lesser Festival. Patron of Hampshire, Winchester, Winchester Cathedral, Southwark, the weather and invoked against drought. Image: alamy.com.