King Oswald’s Right Arm

Thursday 25 March

A medieval history expert is to give an online lecture about St Oswald, the seventh-century king of Northumbria, who was a very important figure for the monks of Peterborough Abbey.

Dr Johanna Dale of University College London will explain why he was significant to a community of Fenland monks and will trace the history of the monks' most prized possession: the king's right arm which defied decomposition.

The Abbey which acquired this relic in highly dubious circumstances, made it a focus of the community and the shrine containing it also attracted numerous pilgrims, including kings of England. The arm disappeared in the great upheavals of the Reformation but the chapel of St Oswald remains as one of the highlights of any visitor's tour of Peterborough Cathedral.

“King Oswald was a very popular saint in medieval England and he was especially important at Peterborough”, declared Dr Dale. “The history of his arm relic is, in some ways, a tale of intrigue but also one that sheds light on many aspects of medieval society”, she added.

In a talk to be presented on the ‘Zoom’ platform on Thursday 20th May at 7.30pm, Dr Dale will draw on her research into Oswald's cult in the Middle Ages, demonstrating both the centrality of Oswald to the Peterborough community and also how their veneration of the Northumbrian king made them pivotal to cultural networks that stretched from northern England all the way to Switzerland.

“The legend of Oswald has been the source of fascination for people worldwide for centuries but it’s always of special interest to us here in Peterborough”, said the Vice Dean of Peterborough Cathedral Tim Alban-Jones. “History’s clear that Oswald’s uncorrupted arm was here in Peterborough and we’re thrilled that Johanna will share with us her wonderful research about a religious character who continues to amaze us.”


Tickets are available now. £7 per viewing.

  • Thursday 20th May 2021 at 7.30pm - BOOK NOW

A Zoom link to the talk on date you choose will be sent to ticket holders just before the event.

NB: Information for Ticket Purchasers

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