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Wigstan of Mercia

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Title: Wigstan of Mercia  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: W. H. Auden, Cnut the Great, Evesham Abbey, Repton, Wiglaf of Mercia, Beorhtwulf of Mercia, Ceolwulf II of Mercia, List of monarchs of Mercia, List of state leaders in 840, Frithuwold of Chertsey
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Wigstan of Mercia

"Wistan" redirects here. For the villages in Iran, see Vistan.
King of Mercia
Reign 840 AD
Predecessor Wigmund
Successor Beorhtwulf
House House of Mercia
Father Wigmund
Mother Ælfflæd
Died 1 June 840 AD
Burial Repton, Derbyshire
Wigstan (Wystan, Wistan)
Died 840
Feast 1 June

Wigstan (died c.840 AD), also known as Saint Wystan, was the son of Wigmund of Mercia and Ælfflæd, daughter of King Ceolwulf I of Mercia.


Wigstan, was the son of Wigmund, probably sub-King of the Hwicce, and Ælfflæd, daughter of the elderly King Ceolwulf. He may have been the brother of King Ceolwulf II of Mercia and Lady Eadburh of the Gaini (mother-in-law of King Alfred the Great), though this is far from certain. Wigstan grew up during the reign of his paternal grandfather, King Wiglaf, but his father predeceased him - apparently via a bad case of dysentery - and the young lad eventually succeeded Wiglaf to the Mercian throne in AD 840. King Wigstan, however, preferred religious life to court life and therefore asked his widowed mother to act as regent. Meanwhile, one Beorhtwulf - probably a relative of the late King Beornred and supposedly the brother of Wiglaf - wished to marry his son, Beorhtfrith, to this Royal lady. Wigstan would have none of it for the two were closely related, and Beorhtwulf therefore decided, instead, to press his own claim to the Mercian Crown. On 1st June AD 840, Beorhtfrith went to visit the young King in peace at Wistow (Leics) - or Wistanstow (Salop) - but, when the two greeted each other, he struck Wigstan on the head with the shaft of his dagger and his servant ran him through with his sword. Beorhtwulf thus took the throne through violence, as so often in those days.

The site of Wigstan's martyrdom has been variously claimed to be Wistanstow (Shropshire), Wistow (Leics) or Wistow (Cambs). Wigstan's body was supposedly discovered under a shaft of light from heaven. Wigstan's remains were reburied at St. Wystan's Church, Repton in 849, where his grandfather King Wiglaf was also buried, and a cult developed soon after. Repton became a centre of pilgrimage as a result. About 1019, Cnut the Great had Wigstan's relics were translated to Evesham.[1]

A Vita Sancti Wistani was written by Dominic of Evesham, a medieval prior of Evesham Abbey around 1130.[2] The name was used occasionally in the Middle Ages and again more recently, e.g. for Wystan Hugh Auden.[3]

There has also been a few towns and hamlets named after him.


The saints relics were relocated to the Abbey at Evesham.[4] His vita (meaning "life" a history recording reputed acts of sanctity) has been attributed to the Benedictine chronicler Dominic of Evesham, an early 12th-century Prior at Evesham. The edifice of the abbey (including the tomb of the four saints and many monastic buildings) were demolished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Noted Edwardian artist Margaret E.A. Rope was commissioned for the windows in the parish church in Shropshire dedicated to the miraculous pillar of light leading to discovery of the earthly remains of the slain martyr.

  • Saint Wistan early twentieth-century stained-glass window
  • Saint Wistan statuary (unattributed)
  • Saint Wystan statuary above porch at Repton (gifted 1911, absent sword replaced in 2003).

See also

  • Anglo-Saxon crypt tomb at Repton, Derbyshire
  • Oldest unaltered place of Christian worship in England video clip of St Wystan's
  • British poet
  • Mick Sharp's book "The Way and the Light: An Illustrated Guide to the Saints and Holy Places of Britain" makes the case for Wistow as the likely location of St Wistan's martyrdom attested to in the legend of the miraculous appearance of human hair on the anniversary of his death June 1.



  • Walker, Ian, Mercia and the Making of England.
  • Yorke, Barbara, Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England. London: Seaby, 1990. ISBN 1-85264-027-8
  • Zaluckij, Sarah, Mercia: the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Central England. Logaston: Logaston Press, 2001. ISBN 1-873827-62-8

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