Today (2 August) we commemorate St. Etheldritha (Alfreda, Alfrida) of Crowland (Croyland), virgin (ca. 835). From Miss Dunbar:
St. Alfreda, Aug. 2 (ALFRIDA, ETHELDRITHA, AElfthryth, Althryda, Ethelfreda). 834. Daughter of Offa, king of the Mercians, one of the most powerful of the Saxon kings, and conqueror of several of his contemporaries ; he held his court at Sutton Wallis, in Herefordshire. His wife was Quendreda. In 793 Alfreda was betrothed to Ethelbert, or Egelbrit, king of the East Angles. Quendreda had him murdered in the interest of her brother Egfrid, who was innocent of any participation in the crime. The murdered Ethelbert was buried secretly at Marden. A pillar of light appeared at night over the spot, and revealed the grave. His body was translated into the church at Hereford. Tortured by remorse, the queen had fits of fury and terror. She died miserably three months after her crime. Alfreda fled to the monastery of St. Guthlac, at Croyland, and became a recluse there, being built up in a cell in the south part of the church opposite the high altar ; she lived there for forty years, and died about 834.
Well, that’s quite the story – bloody Anglo-Saxon politics, the murderous wicked queen who gets her comeuppance, the poor widow who flees to the abbey for sanctuary. I didn’t realise it was a double house – perhaps it wasn’t. Wikipedia expresses doubts. Fair enough. Could it be that Etheldritha was following in the footsteps of Guthlac’s sister St Pega? I suppose poor Etheldritha would have felt at least safe from scary Quendreda inside her anchorhold! The monastic life is not supposed to be an escape from the world, but sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed… celt-saints provides a few more condensed details. Here is a brief history of Croyland Abbey from the Victoria County History, and one from the abbey’s website. There is an (Antiochian) Orthodox Community of St Guthlac of Crowland in Scunthorpe, which is part of the wider St Cuthbert’s parish. I think. On their News page is an account with photos of a recent pilgrimage to Croyland Abbey.
Which saints would be in a Synaxis of the Saints of Croyland? (Obviously, I’m interested in groups of saints associated with particular places, as they come up repeatedly in this research. And as I’ve mentioned before I LOVE the icon of All Saints of Great Britain. I’d love to have a poster-sized reproduction to pore over, so I could see everyone properly – but I’ve never seen one that big!) The abbey church is dedicated to the Mother of God, St Bartholomew and St Guthlac – then there are Abbot Theodore, St Pega and St Etheldritha. That’s six so far, perhaps continuing research will turn up some more…
Holy St Etheldritha, pray to God for us.