Richard the Pilgrim

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Stained glass window in St Ricarius Church, Aberford

Saint Richard the Pilgrim (also known as St. Richard of Wessex,[1] St. Richard the King, St. Richard the Saxon, St. Richard of Swabia. St. Ricarius) is a saint of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox (feastday is 7 February)[2] Churches. There is one church in the UK dedicated to him, St Ricarius Church, Aberford.


Richard was from Wessex, England[3] and his real name is uncertain.[1] He appears to have been an Anglo-Saxon chieftain or Under-King in Wessex, probably of part of Devonshire.[4] He obtained by his prayers the recovery of his three year old son Willibald, whom he laid at the foot of a great crucifix erected in a public place in England, when the child’s life was despaired of in a grievous sickness.[5]

Around the year 721, he entrusted his eleven year old daughter Walpurga to the abbess of Wimborne in Dorset,[6] renounced his estates, and set sail with his two sons from Hamblehaven near Southampton. They landed in France and temporarily stayed in Rouen. From there, they set off on the pilgrimage route to Italy, where they prayed at shrines situated along the way.

He died unexpectedly after developing a fever in Lucca, Tuscany, where he was buried in the Church of San Frediano, founded by the Irish monk Fridianus. Miracles were reported to have occurred at his tomb and a cult venerating him developed. The people of Lucca gave him the name "Richard" and embellished their accounts of his life, describing him as an English prince. Another apocryphal story described him as the Duke of Swabia in Germany.[3]

The reigning king of the West Saxons or Wessex during this period was King Ine, who ascended the throne in 688 and died in or possibly after 726. Bede states that he abdicated after 37 years, i.e. 725-26. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers to him abdicating in and around 726-28, then traveling to Rome and dying there. [7]


His wife, Winna, was the sister of Saint Boniface,[6] Archbishop of Mainz, and they were the parents of Willibald, Bishop of Eichstätt; Saint Winibald, (Abbot of Heidenheim); and Walpurga, Abbess of Heidenheim.[3]

Eichstätt Mittelschrein

His son, Willibald, continued the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Richard's niece, a nun called Hygeburg (Huneburc of Heidenheim), wrote an account of the pilgrimage, entitled "Hodoeporicon", which historians date the text between 761 and 786.[8]


Some of Richard's relics were transported to Eichstätt, where Willibald eventually became Bishop. Richard's feast day is 7 February.[1]

Richard is depicted with the Blessed Mother and his three children at Eichstätt Cathedral.


In religious artworks, Richard is portrayed as a royal pilgrim in an ermine-lined cloak with two sons, one a bishop and one an abbot. His crown appears to lie on a book (Roeder). Richard is particularly venerated at Heidenheim and Lucca (Roeder).[1]

St. Richard the Pilgrim should not be confused with Richard le Pèlerin, (also "Richard the Pilgrim"), a North French or Flemish jongleur who witnessed the siege of Antioch in 1097 and wrote a poem on the subject.


  1. ^ a b c d Rabenstein, Katherine I. (1998). "Saint of the Day : February 7". St. Patrick's Catholic Church. Washington, D.C. Richard the King (RM). Retrieved 2010-03-24., herself quoting Roeder, Helen (1956). Saints and Their Attributes. Chicago: H. Regnery Co. pp. ??. LCCN 56013630.
  2. ^ "GOARCH Calendar 07 February". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "St. Richard the Pilgrim", FaithND, University of Notre Dame
  4. ^ Monks of Ramsgate. “Richard”. Book of Saints, 1921. CatholicSaints.Info. 6 February 2017 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ Butler, Alban. “Saint Richard, King in England, and Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 February 2013
  6. ^ a b Casanova, Gertrude. "St. Walburga." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 14 May 2018
  7. ^ Handbook of British Chronology, ed. Fryde et al., 3rd ed., RHS, 1986, p. 22
  8. ^ "Prologue to the Hodoeporicon of St. Willibald". Huneberc of Heidenheim. Social Sciences Faculty Web Pages. Retrieved 8 August 2017.