Cuthmann of Steyning v. Leoba

Sometimes Lent Madness includes well-known saints, sometimes lesser known ones. Today may be the latter for many people as Cuthmann of Steyning faces Leoba for a shot at the Saintly Sixteen. Which among these near contemporaries with ties to England will advance? Well, that's up to you.

Yesterday, Chief Seattle sailed past Botulph 80% to 20%.

Time to vote!

Cuthmann of Steyning

Church planting today is often a data-driven affair. Population growth is examined; demographics considered; community needs gathered and polled. But it’s God who ultimately gives the growth to any new church. Cuthmann of Steyning might argue that because God gives the growth, sometimes, it’s also possible to overthink things in choosing where to start a church.

According to legend, Cuthmann was born around 681 and became a shepherd in southern England. After his father’s death, he was the sole caretaker for his paralyzed mother. The pair fell on hard times; after exhausting all other ends, he felt compelled to go house-to-house begging for alms and assistance. But Cuthmann couldn’t leave his mother alone; he had to care for her, make sure she was safe and secure. So, he built a wheelbarrow in which he could place his beloved mother, using a rope tied to the handles and across his neck to help bear the load, so he could carry her as he went about seeking provision for their needs.

Setting out to the east, Cuthmann’s plan initially worked. They travelled some distance until the rope around the handles broke. Ever ingenious, Cuthmann crafted a new rope from willow branches and decided that when that rope broke, he would build a church on the spot. The rope broke near the village of Steyning in Sussex. According to legend, he prayed: “Father Almighty, you have brought my wanderings to an end; now enable me to begin this work. For who am I, Lord, that I should build a house to name? If I rely on myself, it will be of no avail, but it is you who will assist me. You have given me the desire to be a builder; make up for my lack of skill, and bring the work of building this holy house to its completion.”

First things first: Cuthmann built a hut to keep his mother safe. As the church neared completion, and he struggled to place a roof trestle into place, a stranger visited to help him fix it in place. When asked for his name, the stranger said that “I am he in whose name you are building this church.” The task complete, Cuthmann spent the remainder of his days in Steyning.

Without data, a plant team, or even building supplies, God inspired Cuthmann to plant a church. So who can say that the task of growth is impossible in our own day?

Collect for Cuthmann of Steyning
Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Cuthmann to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

David Sibley


Leoba was born at the beginning of the eighth century, an unusual time during which women’s voices were actually welcomed in the church and flourished. Born to a noble family in Wessex, England, her mother had a dream that she would conceive a cherished child of Christ, and her child would serve the church faithfully and with great insight and wisdom. Her parents named her Leoba, meaning “beloved.”

Leoba’s parents placed her in the double monastery of Wimborne for formation and education. There, she studied scripture, languages, the writings of the ancient church fathers, and canon law. Over time, she eventually took vows as a nun. While at Wimborne, she and other nuns and monks attended lectures at a nearby religious house. At these lectures, she became aware of Boniface, a Benedictine monk and leading figure in the spread of Christianity to parts of Germany. Leoba wrote Boniface, inquiring as to whether they might exchange letters on matters relating to theology and the church. Boniface, knowing of her reputation as a wise and devout person, eagerly added Leoba to the number of people he regularly corresponded with about all things faith.

They became friends and colleagues, engaging in deep theological discussions. When Boniface decided to establish monasteries in Germany, he asked Leoba and some of her fellow Wimborne nuns to assist him, so in 748, Leoba traveled with other nuns to Germany. She eventually became the abbess of a convent in the Franconian town Tauberbischofsheim. Leoba’s ministry included not only forming and educating nuns, monks, and converts to Christianity but also serving as a trusted advisor to many bishops, kings, and queens. She was the only woman allowed in the monasteries in nearby Fulda, where she often advised bishops and monastic leaders. When Boniface left the region on his many mission trips, he left his monastic cowl with Leoba, indicating that in his absence, she was his delegate and embodied all his authority.

Boniface asked to have her body laid beside his when she died, “so we who with a like desire and devotion have served Christ here may side by side await the day of resurrection.” Leoba outlived Boniface by some 20 years, dying in September 782. She was originally buried in the same room as Boniface, and her relics were later translated to another church in Fulda.

Collect for Leoba
O God, by your Holy Spirit you give to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant Leoba, and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Laurie Brock


Cuthmann of Steyning: unknown. Original reproduction uploaded by Neddyseagoon (Transfered by Wikipeder), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Leoba: Kandschwar, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


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109 comments on “Cuthmann of Steyning v. Leoba”

  1. I always appreciate the opportunity to vote for women leaders (both in the church and in the wider world), so am voting for Leoba today.

  2. I've always loved Leoba since I did a paper in college on Anglo-Saxon saints .

  3. Cuthmann of Steyning has my vote. His devotion to God and his mother touches me. It reminds me of the Thomas Merton quote that,” But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You.”

  4. The phrases "according to legend," and similar phrases, gives me pause. Some real people have legends attached to them, but often we don't know if there even were such people. I will usually pick a real person in Lent Madness over a myth. Today's choice was an obviosity for me.

    1. A myth is not the same as a fairy tale. The truth of devotion to both earthly duties and heavenly inspirations are a source of encouragement for me when I feel like my last rope has broken. We need reminders that Jesus is with us to hoist the impossible.
      Humble Cuthmann has my vote

      1. Amen. Their stories encourage me as well. Whether real or metaphor God has used both to keep me on the way.

  5. As the long-time caregiver for a chronically ill spouse, St Cuthmann has my vote. His means of both incorporating compassionate care for his mother, and service to the Divine, is a balm to my soul.

    1. Blessings to you, friend. I had planned to vote for Leoba, but having read your words Cuthmann now has my vote. Best to you and ML.

  6. Finally, I appear to be backing a winner, Leoba. With my German heritage, it was an easy choice. I am "cradle Christian" many centuries later because of the missionary work of Boniface among the Germanic tribes. And apparently, the support he received from Leoda aided him in his work.

  7. Cuthmann all the way! The dude carried his mother around in a wheelbarrow. Dude gets my vote.

  8. I vote for the Everyman Saint, Cuthmann. His story, while more legendary than Leoba's really spoke to my heart and soul. How God used Cuthmann in his lowly existence was great encouragement to me in daily struggles and in the future of the church. If we attempt to build what God puts in our hearts, and we trust His power to empower us, He will come and share our efforts. Grace is given if we ask and attempt to do what is set before us.

  9. Since I'm guessing most voters are women, I want to give Cuthmann a chance. He had a much more difficult life and was still look after his mom and build a church

    1. please don't assume all women vote for all women - assumptions can get you into hot water unnecessarily! Being a female with the first name of Rodney, believe me and please never ASSUME !!!

      1. I hear you, Rodney! I cannot count the number of times people who don't know me have added an accent aigu to the final 'e' in my name or referred to me as "Monsieur"!

    2. All other things being equal, this woman does tip to her sisters mostly, and this is my toughest decision yet. I am voting for Cuthmann. The mad simplicity of perfect faith and giving it all up to God is persuasive. At that imaginary exercise of “ who in all history would you like to have at your dinner table?” I have to add Leoba though.

    3. If the spirit moves you to vote along gender lines, so be it. But do you really think 40% of all Lent Madness voters so far today are guys? Because that’s how many people have voted for Cuthmann as of 5:30.

      There have been seven contests between men and women so far this time, including today’s. I’ve voted for four women and three men. Why not be like me and vote for the more deserving candidate?

      Blessings on your future choices, though, whatever they may be.

  10. Agggghhhh, why did they move Leoba's body later? Couldn't they have left these two old companions to await the resurrection together?

  11. Some this year have commented that a few of the saints were uninspiring. I've found all to be at least interesting and thought provoking so, thank you to the celebrity bloggers! If you've not read about these contributors,I recommend it! Thinking you will find some inspiration there and a bit of humor. Now, must decide on my vote today...

  12. My dear friend Ginny Ward, visiting from England this week, told me about Cuthmann on Monday and informed me of his presence in our favorite Lenten discipline: Lent Madness. And here he is! The Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas continues to celebrate Ginny’s presence among us and now a new favorite saint - Cuthmann - has become a Church of England/Episcopalian link to our brothers and sisters in Christ “across the pond”, thanks to Ginny’s double membership in both communions. Thanks be to God!

  13. St. Cuthmann of Steyning's life sounded so absolutely grounded in faith in God who provides all for us. His commitment to his own mother on earth, followers of Christ who would later come to the newly built church, and Father in heaven is astounding. Like St. Leoba, he followed his calling. Yet, I felt the hardships with which he struggled were more severe. Possibly my experiences in caregiving played into this choice.

    1. I have been privileged to accompany other family caregivers in that often exhausting, always challenging walk. I, too, was moved by Cuthman's story although I chose Leoba due to the widespread fruit of her work. It's as if she was the Clare to Francis. Still, glad to know of Cuthman's ingenuity and absolute faith. Win-win today.

  14. I am reading about the Anglo Saxon period at the moment, but haven't come across Leoba. What an extraordinary women, a great example of what women can achieve when their gifts are recognised by the Church and they are equipped for ministry. We have much to learn from the Anglo Saxon Church. How sad that she wasn't allowed to spend eternity by Boniface's side.

  15. This was a difficult choice for me. I voted f for Cuthmann of Steyning. His devotion to his mother was overwhelming love. And his faith was committed and unconditional and it never seemed to waiver. Certainly there were many obstacles… daunting obstacles! When he was building the church I was feeling the love of God. I felt that Cuthmann was incredibly humble and devout. The individual who came to help seemed to me to be an Angel- The Holy Spirit! Cuthmann of Steyning a man of deep and abiding faith as well as humility spoke to me.

  16. Leoba’s ministry to Bishops is so important. She too was responsible for building the Church, not just a building, but countless people whom she nurtured. She gets my vote although I was moved by Cuthman’s story and his caregiving of his mother.

  17. Leoba was a remarkable person, certainly, particularly at the period she lived and has my vote. But I shall always treasure a small brass rubbing of Cuthman and his mum trundling across the fields. According to a bit of a story I’d heard, it was Mum who decided where the church was to go; not Cuthman.

  18. I loved both of these stories SO SO much! But how could I not vote for a man who spent his years taking care of his ailing mother? I know the drudgery, pain, patience and (YES!) blessing of caring for my aged parents. So with much anguish I choose! Thank you for these amazing stories!

  19. Doesn't it seem illogical to put up a church building if there is not a potential congregation to use it?

    1. Perhaps Cuthmann was responding to n inner voice that said, "Build it and they will come."

      1. Or perhaps like St. Francis of Assisi, he misinterpreted what God was calling him to do.

  20. I am so glad to learn about Leoba. I now place her alongside Hilda and Brigid as my favorites.

  21. I love Leoba and will be quite happy if she wins, to champion her in matchups (except with my faves who have not had their day yet), but today, Cuthmann. As the mother of sons, I gotta go with the boy who takes care of his mama.

  22. I have many questions about Cuthman. For one, if he was carrying his mother about because he needed to beg for the means of survival, how did he stop and build a church? Did he place a bowl out so people passing by could leave donations to support the erecting of the church?
    In the end, I am giving my vote to Leoba. The stories about her friendship with Boniface are charming. I love to have theological discussions myself, even if I am not particularly learned. I admire Leoba's having the courage to reach out to Boniface, and let me give a point or two to Boniface for his openness to a friendship with a woman in those times. I would love to sit in on a conversation with the two of them, just to listen in.

  23. Scholarship and theological discussions are all very well, but there's something about the beautiful simplicity of Cuthmann's love for his mother and his God that touched my heart and won my vote today.

  24. Tauberbischoffsheim - how can one not vote for a saint associated with a place name that translates "deaf bishop's home"!

  25. Taking care of your mama a very high calling and pleasing to our Lord.
    Love the humility and faith of Cuthmann.
    Leoba (love the name) walked away from the easy life to serve our lord. And did so much good for so many people.
    A very hard choice, but how can I not vote for the man that carried his mom with him in a wheelbarrow.

  26. As a physiatrist who cares for people with stroke, I honor all those family members who sacrifice themselves to care for family members with activity limitations from paralysis. Cuthman also honors all those who care for ailing and frail parents (so common today). And all in the name of God for whom spreading the word of God's love is part of the expression of their love for those in need who are close and those who are neighbors.

    1. Hi Richard,
      I had never heard of a physiatrist before. Just looked it up - thanks for your work and for introducing me to something new (apart from all the new things I learn about saints on Lent Madness).

  27. What a strong woman she was and also her rare to hear of a woman leader, even today!
    Cuthmann sounds like a lovely embellished story but I'll go with an actual historical person...

  28. Leoba was certainly admirable, and I'm not surprised she's ahead given the resolve of many Lent Madness participants to favor the women in the brackets.

    But consider Cuthmann, my sisters! He was the uber-multitasker, caring tenderly for his mother while following his calling to built a church. To me he seems a more helpful role model than the monastic Leoba for those of us, perhaps women more so than men, who strive to be faithful to both family responsibilities and caregiving as well as to our various callings and gifts for being Christ's people in the Church and in the world.

    Besides, I just love his quixotic devotion to building his church. It made me think of the the film Field of Dreams: "If you build it, they will come." And he built and they came! The Church of St. Andrew and St Cuthmann in Steyning (they recently voted to add his name back to the parish name, and built a chapel named for him) is an active, lively congregation!

  29. Once again, I have been hanging out with our local (German) Benedictines recently, so Leoba gets my vote.