Hereford Cathedral is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Ethelbert the King. This week we are celebrating the Feast Day of St Ethelbert (Wednesday 20 May). The Dean of Hereford, The Very Revd Michael Tavinor, has kindly put together a brief overview of the saint and his connection to Hereford for anyone who may not know the saint’s story.

The Shrine of St Ethelbert in 2018

Who was St Ethelbert?

Born in East Anglia, he was king of the East Angles and journeyed to Mercia to seek a dynastic marriage – arriving in this part of England, he was received well at the court of King Offa, but then became involved in political intrigue and was beheaded by order of Offa on 21 May 794, at Marden, five miles north of Hereford.

What is the connection with Hereford Cathedral?

St Ethelbert is Hereford Cathedral’s Saxon saint. His body was buried at Hereford Cathedral and became the focus of a cult of pilgrimage and healing. Although his relics were dispersed when the cathedral was sacked by the Welsh in 1055, his memory continued and Ethelbert’s memory is preserved in the dedication of the cathedral and by giving his name to elements of Hereford life – the annual May Fair, St Ethelbert’s Hospital. There are also 11 churches dedicated to St Ethelbert in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

Normally on the Feast of St Ethelbert we would celebrate together in worship and come together for events which unfortunately we can't do this year. Instead we are encouraging people to mark the day from home by taking part in our Virtual Ethelbert Pilgrimage.