'Pray for us blessed Sitha'
Medieval England was a Catholic country, filled with religious imagery. Images in public places, such as statues, stained glass windows and wall paintings, were particularly important sources of information for people who could not read.
Saints (individuals of exceptional and exemplary holiness) were venerated as powerful intercessors with God. They were commonly depicted holding items relevant to their story, allowing them to be recognised easily.
The lives of the saints provided inspiration and comfort for many, especially if events in their own lives were reflected in the writings. The 13th-century Italian housekeeper St Zita became the centre of a cult in the Midlands, two centuries after her death, perhaps because her life of domestic chores struck a chord with English servants and housewives.
The ‘celebrity’ accorded to particular saints was reflected in the popularity of pilgrimages to places associated with them, and the trade in relics. Local saints were particularly venerated in their own areas. The 15th-century prayer book WLC/LM/11 includes a series of prayers for East Anglian saints, as well as for the principal saints known throughout the Christian world.
The following extracts from literary and historical texts give some insights into female saints venerated in medieval society.
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