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Odulf

(d. 855)


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(d. 855),

monk and missionary in Frisia. Born at Oorschot (North Brabant) and outstanding in his youth both for intelligence and piety, he became a priest. After a few years he was sent by St Frederick of Utrecht to minister to the partially converted Frisians. He made his base at Stavoren, where he built both church and monastery; he worked for many years in the same area, retired to Utrecht in old age, and died there on 12 June. His body was enshrined, his cult grew, and a number of churches were dedicated to him in Holland and Belgium. His connection with England came by the theft of his relics in the early 11th century by Viking pirates who brought them to London. Aelfward, bishop of London, bought them for the large sum of 100 marks and gave them to Evesham abbey, over which he still ruled. Their presence in the abbey church gave it lustre and prestige. But later a Norman abbot of Evesham, Walter, tried to remove them to Winchcombe. The Evesham chronicler related that the shrine became so heavy for the bearers that they were quite unable to continue, but when they turned back to Evesham, it seemed as light as a feather. This, like the blindness suffered earlier by Queen Edith, who wished to take some of his relics for her private collection, was interpreted as meaning that Odulf disapproved of such removals and wanted to be left undisturbed in his adopted home of Evesham. But the fact that the Evesham relics were stolen from Stavoren, while the Utrecht tradition was that Odulf was buried at Utrecht itself without any translation to Stavoren, makes the Evesham claim very dubious. This did not prevent Odulf's feast being celebrated on 12 June, with one translation feast on 10 October and yet another on 24 November.

AA.SS. Iun. II (1701), 591–5; N.L.A., ii. 229–30; W. D. Macray, Chronicon de Evesham (R.S., 1863), pp. 313–20; J. C. Jennings, ‘The Writings of Prior Dominic of Evesham’, E.H.R., lxxvii (1962), 298–304; B.L.S., vi. 96–7.

Subjects: Christianity.


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