This year June 17 is the intersection of three different days that twine together in Boston, MA: Father’s Day, Bunker Hill Day, and the Feast of St. Botolph. Botolph, in a sense is the father, and patron saint of Boston, the name deriving from a contraction of “Botolph’s Town.” The original Boston is in Lincolnshire in England (like Boston, MA a place known for its fens) and is home to a church dedicated to the saint nicknamed Botolph’s Stump. Botolph’s name is remembered in the Hub of Universe in the name of a street in Back Bay, the name of a club, and in the name of the president’s house at Boston College. Pieces of the the Gothic window tracery of Lincolnshire’s Church of St. Botolph are incorporated into the structure of Trinity Church in Boston’s Copley Square. The Puritans who named their “City on a Hill” Boston of course had no intention of naming the city after a canonized saint, merely naming it after where many of them came from. And while June 17th is a holiday in Suffolk County, MA, it is not for the saint but for the battle fought on Bunker Hill on that day in 1775. Coincidentally, the feast day of Saint Patrick, Boston’s other patron saint, is also a public holiday but that is due to Evacuation Day.
So what about Botolph the man himself?
- born ca. 610 of noble Saxon blood in East Anglia.
- studied under monks and became a Benedictine himself in northern Gaul.
- founded a monastery around 654 a AD at Ikenhoe (ox-island) which once was believed to be at Boston, but recent scholarship points to it being at Iken in Sussex.
- died in 680 following a lengthy illness while being carried to chapel for compline.
- little detail known about his life but Botolph is a very popular saint in England and Scotland (where his feast day is June 25) and has many churches dedicated to him.
- some evidence points to Botolph being of Irish birth, hence his ability to communicate easily with the Scots.
- patron saint of travelers. In medieval London, the churches at four gates are named for him and are places travelers would go to pray for protection before setting off on a journey and to offer thanksgiving upon arriving safely in London.
- his relics have been scattered to several locations through the ages including the four St. Botolph churches around London and Westminster Abbey.
So there you have it. A worthy saint and namesake of a great city.
For more on St. Botolph, visit: