The Feast Day of St Emerenciana (also known as St Emerentiana) is celebrated by the Catholic Church on 23 January.
Emerenciana was a foster sister of St Agnes and was stoned to death when she was found praying at Agnes’s tomb. She is often represented holding stones and lilies and is the patron saint of stomach problems and colic.
A prayer for St Emerenciana’s feast day: ‘Let blessed Emerenciana, thy virgin and martyr, win for us pardon for thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, for both by her chastity and by her confession of thy power, she ever pleaseth thee well.’
Sherborne claims not only a chapel dedicated to the saint, but her feast day is mentioned in the Sherborne Missal and the Catholic church of Sacred Heart & St Aldhelm has a statue of her.
Why Sherborne should have any particular connection to St Emerenciana is not known, but she was a popular saint in Mediaeval Europe.
St Emerenciana’s chapel
St Emerenciana’s chapel at Nethercombe in Sherborne appears to be the only religious building in the country dedicated to her memory.
Today, the chapel is redundant and forms part of the Sherborne International site bequeathed to Sherborne School in 1988 by Louisa and Charlie Bow. The chapel stood on land belonging to the Bishops of Sarum and is mentioned by the antiquary John Leland (c. 1503–1552) in his Itinerary. Leland records a visit he made to Sherborne about the year 1542 when he saw a ‘Paroche Chirch’ of St Emerenciana, which he described as being ‘of old tyme’ and ‘now faullen clene downe’.
The Sherborne Missal
The feast day of St Emerenciana was an important enough date in the Sherborne calendar for it to be mentioned in the Sherborne Missal. The Missal dates from about 1400 and was the work of John Sifrewas (a Dominican friar) and John Whas (a Benedictine monk and local boy). It would have been used on the high altar in Sherborne Abbey on special occasions.
The Sherborne Missal is held at the British Library, but a digital copy can be viewed at Sherborne Museum.
Statue of St Emerenciana
A statue of St Emerenciana, holding her trademark stones and lilies, is set high on the north wall of the Catholic church of St Aldhelm and the Sacred Heart in Westbury, Sherborne. The sisters of the Religious of Christian Instruction had arrived in Sherborne in 1891 and the statue was a gift to them from Belgium. Although it is unlikely that the saint’s historic connection to the town was known when the gift was made, it is fitting that her presence is still felt in the town where her feast day was previously celebrated.
Joseph Fowler, Medieval Sherborne (1951)
J.H.P. Gibb, The Book of Sherborne (1981)
List entry on the Historic England website.
Posted 23 January 2018 by Sherborne School Archives.
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