Saint Juthwara was a British virgin and martyr from Dorset, who probably lived in the 6th century. Her relics were translated to Sherborne during the reign of Ethelred the Unready. Nothing further is known with certainty about her life.
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church Orthodox Christian Church|
|Major shrine||Sherborne Abbey (until 16th century)|
|Attributes||round soft cheese; sword; with Sidwell; as cephalophore|
Her name is how she is known in Anglo-Saxon. Some have suggested that it is a corruption of the British Aud Wyry (meaning Aud the Virgin), the name by which she is known in Brittany. However, since Aud Wyry simply means "Aud the Virgin" (Aud is a Germanic name used in Northern France and not a Celtic name) it is more likely that Aud Wyry is a Breton reinterpretation of her original name. She was said to have been the sister of Paul Aurelian, Sidwell of Exeter and Wulvela but this is hotly debated.
The legend of Saint Juthwara is known from John Capgrave's Nova Legenda Angliae, after John of Tynemouth mid-14th century. According to this, she was a pious girl who was the victim of a jealous stepmother. She prayed and fasted often, and frequently gave alms. Upon the death of her father, she began to suffer a pain in her chest. Its source was ascribed to her sorrow and austerities. As a remedy, her stepmother recommended two soft cheeses be applied to her breasts, telling her own son, Bana, that Juthwara was pregnant. Bana felt her underclothes and found them moist, whereupon he immediately struck off her head. A spring of water appeared at the spot. Juthwara then miraculously picked up her head and carried it back to the church. Bana repented of his deed and became a monk, founding a monastery of Gerber (later known as Le Relecq) on a battlefield.
Juthwara's death took place at Halyngstoka, generally accepted as Halstock in Dorset, where she is known as Juthware, and where local tradition points to a field still called by her name, modernised to 'Judith'. Baring-Gould and Fisher suggested instead Lanteglos-by-Camelford in North Cornwall where the church is now named for Saint Julitta, but may have originally borne Juthwara's name. At Laneast ten miles to the east the church is dedicated to her sisters, but this has apparently arisen by a modern confusion between Laneast and Gulval (also known as Lanestly): at Laneast the dedication in 1436 was to SS. Sativola and Thomas the Martyr, Wolvela does not appear until George Oliver's Monasticon.
Juthwara's feast day is 18 November. Her translation is generally held to be 13 July, although one source gives 6 January. Her body was translated to Sherborne Abbey in the early 11th century and her shrine remained a place of pilgrimage there until the Dissolution. An illustration of her beheading appears in the Sherborne Missal.
Juthwara is depicted in the Great East Window of Sherborne Abbey, and on a number of altar screens in Devon, in company with her sister Sidwell. Her traditional emblem is a round soft cheese and/or a sword. She is depicted as a cephalophore in a late medieval statue in Guizeny, in Brittany.
- Farmer, David Hugh. (1978). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- St. Aude Wyry alias St. Juthwara.
- K. M. Sheard
- Baring-Gould, Sabine & Fisher, John. (1907). The Lives of the British Saints. The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion.
- Orme, Nicholas. (1992). Nicholas Roscarrock's Lives of the Saints: Cornwall and Devon. Devon and Cornwall Record Society.