|Photo Copyright Janet Cameron|
A Rochester legend about a good Christian suggests that he did not get what he deserved for his kindness. Instead he was murdered for no reason - and then something magical happened.
William of Perth, sometimes designated William of Rochester, is the patron saint of adopted children. He was born in Perth in the twelfth century and died at Rochester in Kent after having his throat cut in 1201, an act which had strange consequences. William was, allegedly, a bad lot during his early years, but in young adulthood he reformed and converted to Christianity. He committed himself to God, attended mass daily and cared for unfortunate and neglected children. Working as a baker, he gave every tenth loaf to the poor.
One day, while walking to church, William found a small, abandoned child on the threshold and decided to adopt him and instruct him in the art of baking. William named the child David.
Williams's Kindness Brings Murder and a Miracle
Many years later, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, William and David quarrelled just as they reached Rochester. We don't know what the quarrel was about, only that David, always a hot-headed youth, got mad. Unexpectedly, David turned on his kindly rescuer and patron, clubbed him, slit his throat and then robbed him before fleeing for his life.
A passing woman, who happened to suffer from madness, discovered the body. She was moved to pity and made a necklace of honeysuckle flowers which she placed on the dead Christian's body. Then she put the garland on herself and something very strange and magical happened - her insanity was instantly lifted from her. Some people said it was a miracle.
It was enough to impress some monks, who decided William's final resting place should be within the Cathedral. A shrine in the form of a tomb and chapel became a focus for pilgrims and its remains can still be seen near St. William's Hospital, although, unfortunately, William's relics were destroyed with the Cathedral in 1538 during Henry VIII's reign of terror.
William was canonised in 1256 by Pope Innocent IV, at the suggestion of the Bishop of Rochester, Lawrence de San Martino.
· Hawkings, David T. Criminal Ancestor (1992) Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd.
· Lane, Brian, The Murder Club (1988) Harrap Ltd.
· MacDougall, Philip, Murder in Kent (1989) Robert Hale