chapter 20

Howe a great fire, like to distroye all Chestre, by myracle ceased / whan the holy shryne was borne about the towne by the monkes.

stanza 237

1654Whan they had ended the holy letanye litany
From place to place procedyng in stacion,in procession, ceremony
Anone a stremyng sterre appered sodaynlye,At once / shooting star / suddenly
A white doue descended afore the congregaciondove
Approchyng as to helpe them / a signe of consolacion.
The people reioysed of that gostly syghtrejoiced / spiritual
And praysed saynt Werburge with power and myght.

stanza 238

1661So by >the merite of this blessed virgin
The fire began to cesse - / a myracle clere -cease / excellent
Nat passyng the place / where the holy shryne Not passing
Was borne by the bretherne / as playnly dyd appere.
The citezens dyd helpe in their best manere;to the best of their ability
The feruent great fire extincted was in-dedeextinguished
By grace aboue nature / in story we may rede. 1 above

stanza 239

1668 The clergie, the burges / and the comons all,citizens
Consyderynge the goodnes of this virgin bright,
With tendernes of hert and loue in speciall
Magnified and praysed our lorde god almyght
And blessed Werburge by day, also nyght,
Whiche hath preserued of her great charite Who / through her great kindness
Chestre from distruction in extreme necessite.need

stanza 240

1675Vnto her shryne the people all went,
The clergie before, in maner of procession,
Thankyng this virgin with loue feruent
For her mercy and grace shewed them vpon;showed to them
Deuoutly knelynge there made oblacion,prayer
Sayeng full sadly / 'we shall neuer able bevery solemnly
The place to recompence for this ded of charite'. 2 To repay the place for this act of mercy

chapter 21

A breue rehersall of the myracles of saynt Werburge after her translacion to Chestre

stanza 241

1682These fore-sayd myracles and signes celestiall, 3
By diuine sufferaunce shewed manifestly,indulgence / clearly
Magnifien this virgin and blessed moiniall Honour / nun
With mycle worshyp, honour and victory,great
Playnly declaryng vnto your memory
What singular grace / worshyp / and excellencespecial
Our sauiour shewed for his spouse openly, 4
As is rehersed at masse in her sequens. 5 As is told at mass during the liturgy in her honour

stanza 242

1690To expresse all myracles written in the placetell
In a boke nominate the third passionarye, 6 book called
It wolde require a longe tyme and space,
To the reders tedious (no meruayle sothly).no wonder, indeed
Wher[for]e we omytte to writte of them specially,For that reason
But touched in generall vnto your audience,
To reioyse and comfort your hertes inwardly,gladden
As ye may considre in her sequens.contemplate

stanza 243

1698Certaynly, it is knowen by bokes express:known / clearly
Sith that saynt Werburge came to Chestre cite,Since
By the power of god and myracle, doutles,without doubt
She hath defended the towne from ennemite,
From barbarike nacions full of crudelite, barbaric nations / cruelty
Of who we haue shewed with diligence,
Preseruyng her seruauntes / and the monastery,
As is declared in her true sequence.

stanza 244

1706Also of her goodnes preserued she hase
The sayd towne from fire in extreme necessite;
Many diuers tymes to their ioye and solacedifferent / joy
Releuyng the citezens in wo and penalite.Comforting / hardship
For it is well knowen, by olde antiquite since long ago / through old books
Sith the holy shryne came to their presence,Since
It hath ben their comfort and gladnes, truly,
As playnly appereth in her sequens.


Bradshaw's reference to 'grace aboue nature' recalls the medieval theory of miracles, as outlined by authors such as Anselm, which defines a miracle as an event above and beyond the laws of nature or human skill and action. See Ward, 1982, 3-19. Back to context...
Robert Barrett notes that Bradshaw 'includes the idea of impossible recompense as a preemptive strike against a citizenry all too ready to enter into conflict with the abbey - and all too capable of winning that struggle'. See Barrett, 2009, 45. Back to context...
In this chapter (as well as chapters 22 and 23), the stanzas increase in length to 8 lines, indicating the higher subject matter and more elevated style here in these final panegyric sections. Back to context...
Werburgh is Christ's 'spouse', having entered into a symbolic marriage with him through her religious vows. However, as the whole church may be understood as the 'spouse' or 'bride of Christ (see for example Revelations 21:2), Bradshaw's choice of metaphor implies Christ's demonstration of grace to Christians more widely. Back to context...
In this chapter each stanza ends with the word 'sequens', foregrounding the formal commemoration of Werburgh in the liturgy and the church (specifically the monastery of St Werburgh) in Chester as the custodian of her memory. Back to context...
Bradshaw's apparent source, the 'third passionary' (no longer extant) seems to have been a compilation bringing together various different hagiographic and miracle texts relating to Werburgh. Alan Thacker notes that '[l]egends about the saint, together with a Life, probably that attributed to Goscelin of Saint-Bertin, were said in the 16th century [by Bradshaw] to be preserved in a book called the "third passionary". The corpus of miracle stories was probably put together in the late 12th century: it comprised wonders associated with both the canons of the old minster and the monks of the new abbey, extending, it was claimed, from the reign of Edward the Elder (899-924) to 1180'. Thacker remarks further that '[t]he evidence suggests that in the 12th century the monks of St. Werburgh's were actively presenting their patroness as the special protector of the earls and their city', and the 'third passionary would fit within this programme of commemoration and promotion. See A.T. Thacker, Early Medieval Chester, Lewis and Thacker, 2003, 16-33, 31, also available via British History Online. In her edition of Goscelin of Saint-Bertin's Life of St Werburgh, Rosalind Love makes a good case for identifying the 'third passionary'. 'London, Gray's Inn Library 3 is the first and only surviving volume of a four volume legendary, written in the early twelfth century at St Werburgh's Chester... Inserted paper flyleaves (fols. ii, iii) contain a list, in an early sixteenth-century hand, of the contents of the present volume, and of three others which are now lost, in alphabetical order of saints with a reference for each Life to the number of the volume and the leaf within it... The list of contents includes, for leaf 172 of the now-lost third volume of the legendary, the item "Werburg et sic consequenter de Sexburga, Ermenilda etc'"... Presumably, then, this was a copy of the [Life of St Werburgh] ... though quite what might have been encompassed by "etc." is another question, frustratingly unanswerable. Corroboration of this information comes from the English version of the Life of St Wærburh by the Chester monk Henry Bradshaw, who refers more than once to the presence of a Latin Life of Wærburh in "the third Passionarie" of Chester'. See Love, 2004, lviii. Back to context...