Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Confessor, first Bishop of Dorchester (in what is now the County of Oxford, not Dorchester, the capital of Dorsetshire), and Apostle of Wessex; date of birth unknown; died 3 December, 650, at his see and was buried in his own church there. Later (680) his remains were deposited by Bishop Headda in the cathedral at Winchester, where finally (4 September, 972) Bishop Ethelwold enshrined them in silver and gold. According to Bede, Birinus came to Britain on the advice of Pope Honorius I (625-638), having been consecrated bishop by Asterius at Genoa. He promised "to sow the seed of the holy faith in the inner parts beyond the English", but on his arrival (634) found the West Saxons so pagan that he decided to devote his ministry to them. God blessed his zeal by the conversion of their king, Cynegils (635), of his son Cwichelm (636), and of Cwichelm's son Cuthred (639). Cynegils' daughter (Cyneburga?) was also baptized, and Oswald, the holy King of Northumbria, who had come to Cynegils in suit of her hand, was sponsor to her father and wedded her. Doubtless his presence helped Birinus much in his first spiritual conquests. Immediately after this, Oswald and Cynegils gave him Dorcic, or Dorchester, the capital of Wessex, for his see, where "he built and consecrated many churches and by his labours called many to the Lord".

Birinus had great devotion for the Body of Our Lord, as is shown in the account of his walking on the sea to procure the corporal given him by Pope Honorius, wherein he ever carried the Blessed Eucharist. Field strangely disposes of this miracle and others as allegorical or fabricated, after allowing, however, that their chroniclers had some common source of information lost to us now. Many miracles took place at the discovery of Birinus's relics, and Huntingdon among others speaks of "the great miracles of Birin". At present, there is a growing devotion to him in the Established Church. due probably to the connection of the royal family with Cedric, a side branch of whose stock was Cynegils. Field enumerates many modern Protestant memorials. The Catholics of Dorchester honoured their patron, in, 1849, with a beautiful chapel.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 18th, 2014 Image

St. Rufus
December 18: Rufus and Zosimus were citizens of Antioch (or perhaps Philippi) ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter