British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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Feb. io.]                  ST. scholastica's day.                          97
This festival was formerly observed at Oxford. The following extract is taken from The Lives of Leland, Hearne, and Wood (1772. vol. ii. p. 312): Friday, the burghers or citizens of Oxford appeared in their full number on St. Scholastica's Day at St. Mary's. Alderman Wright, their oracle, told them that if they did not appear there might be some hole picked in their charter, as there was now endeavouring to be done in that of the city of London; he told them moreover that, though it was a popish matter, yet policy ought to take place in this juncture of time.*
The origin of this custom was a furious contest between the citizens of Oxford and the students. Some of the latter being at a tavern, on the 10th of February, 1354, broke the landlord's head with a vessel in which he had served them with bad wine. The man immediately collected together a number of his neighbours and fellow-citizens, who, having for a long time waited for such an opportunity, fell upon the students, and in spite of the mandates of the Chancellor, and even the King himself, who was then at Woodstock, continued their outrages for several days, not only killing or wounding the scholars, but, in contempt of the sacerdotal order, destroying all the religious crosses of the town. For this offence the King deprived the city of many valuable privileges, and bestowed them on the University, and the Bishop of Lincoln forbade the administration of the sacraments to the citizens. In the following year they petitioned for a miti­gation of this sentence, but without success; but in 1357 a total abrogation of it was granted upon condition that the city should annually celebrate on St. Scholastica's day, the 10th of February, a number of masses for the souls of the scholars killed in the conflict; the mayor and bailiffs with sixty of the chief burgesses being bound also to swear at St. Mary's
* See ibid. p. 295.
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