Posted by: anna | September 16, 2010

St Hereswitha, sister of St Hilda

Today 3 September) we commemorate St. Hereswith (Hereswitha, Hereswyde, Hǣreswīþ, Hereswithe, Haeresvid, Eresvytha), sister of St. Hilda (c. 690). From Miss Dunbar:
St. Hereswitha, c. 615-647 or 650, Princess of North Deira, Queen of East Anglia. She was one of the sainted daughters of Hereric, nephew of St. Edwin, king of Deira. Her mother was Breguswida or Beorswitha. Her sister was ST. HILDA. When King Edwin was christened at York, in 627 (see ST. ETHELBURGA, queen of Northumberland), by St. Paulinus, the holy rite was administered at the same time to a great number of his relations, among whom was probably his nephew Hereric, with his wife and daughters, Hilda and Hereswitha. These young princesses, being at an impressionable age, could not fail to be influenced by the beauty and charm of their great-aunt, ST. ETHELBURGA, about ten years their senior, who had brought with her from Kent, and from her semi-Frankish birth and semi-Roman teaching, a degree of refinement and culture some what in advance of the rough north country usages.
Most of the later medieval writers say that Hereswitha was married twice. Her second husband was St. Anna, king of the East Angles. According to this theory, she was the mother, by her first marriage, of ST. SEDRIDO or SAETHRYTH, second abbess of Brie; and by her second marriage, with Anna, she had a large family, all of them saints, namely, ST. ETHELBURGA, ST. SEXBURGA, ST. ETHELREDA, ST. WITHBURGA, St. Jurminus, who was killed fighting against the heathen Mercians, and therefore honoured as a martyr, and St. Adulf, king of East Anglia. The Rev. Charles Hole, resting on older authorities, describes her as the wife of Ethelhere, brother and successor of Anna, mother of Aldulf and Alfwold, kings of the East Angles, and says it is uncertain whether she was mother of Jurminus.
There were already many nunneries in France, but in England the first had only been founded in 633, a few years before the time when Hereswitha desired to take the veil. She had heard much of the holiness of women devoted to the service of God in other countries, whereas in England the system had hardly taken root. Three French houses in particular were much resorted to by English ladies who had the vocation. These were Brie [Faremoutiers], still under its first abbess, ST. FARA ; Chelles and Andelys, founded by ST. CLOTILDA. Hereswitha took the veil at Chelles, near Paris, then a small building and community, but soon after, and probably during the residence there of Hereswitha, magnificently refounded and endowed by ST. BATHILDE, queen of France.
Hilda and Hereswitha at Heavenfield
Holy Saint Hereswitha, pray to God for us.

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