Posted by: anna | September 21, 2010

St Ethelburga, abbess of Lyminge

Today (8 September) we commemorate St Ethelburgh (AEthelburh, Ethelburg, Ædilburh, Æthelburga,  Æþelburh), abbess of Lyminge in Kent (647). From Miss Dunbar:
St. Ethelburga (l), Sept. 10, 8 (AETHELBURG, EDILBURG, TACE, TATA, TATE). -f 647. Queen of Northumbria. Founder of Lyming. Daughter of ST. BERTHA (1) and of Ethelbert, first Christian king of Kent and founder of the See of Canterbury. Second wife of Edwin (617-634), first Christian king of Northumbria and founder of the See of York. Mother of ST. EANFLEDA. In 625 Ethelburga was married to St. Edwin, who, after many wars and vicissitudes, was now sole King of Northumbria, and the fifth and greatest of all the Bretwaldas. He promised her and all her suite, of whatever rank and sex, full liberty to observe their own religion; and further, said that if, on examination and consultation with wise persons, he found the Christian worship more holy and worthy of God than the religion he professed, he would himself adopt it. With her went Paulinus, ordained bishop for the occasion, that he might strengthen her and her companions in the true faith, lest any should be corrupted by associating with pagans. The year after Ethelburga’s marriage, an assault was made upon Edwin with a poisoned weapon by an assassin sent by Quichelm, king of Wessex. Edwin’s faithful servant Lilla interposed his body and died in his master’s stead. This was on Easter Day. The same night the queen was safely delivered of a daughter, who was called Eanfleda. The king gave thanks to his gods. Paulinus gave thanks to Christ, saying that it was through His intervention that the queen’s life had been spared. Edwin said that if the Christian God would procure him victory over Quichelm and recovery from his wound, he would be converted ; as a pledge of his sincerity, he delivered up the new-born princess to Paulinus to be baptized. The king went with an army against Quichelm, and returning victorious, renounced the worship of idols. He hesitated still about adopting Christianity, received Hindi instruction on the subject from Paulinus, and consulted also the wisest men of his own kingdom. Pope Boniface was interested in his conversion, and about this time wrote two letters, one to Edwin, one to Ethelburga, urging tin; great religious change, and he sent them presents, with the blessing of St. Peter. The king’s gifts were a gold ornament and a garment of Ancyra ; the queen received a silver looking-glass and an ivory gilt comb. The letters are given in Bede’s History.
The turning-point in Edwin’s conversion was the recurrence of an apparition, which had visited him years before while in exile at Redwald’s court, and promised him success and sovereignty. This supernatural being now told him that it was the God of the Christians who had given him greater power than any of his predecessors, and that lie must no longer delay his conversion. Edwin wished that all his people should be converted with him; he therefore convened his Witan. Coiffi, the pagan high priest, declared himself strongly in favour of Christianity, and was the first to begin the destruction of the great heathen temple at Godmundham (near Wighton, in Yorkshire), with its hideous altars and grim accessories of a barbarous worship. After this, on Easter Day, April 12, 627, in a new wooden church at York, Edwin was baptized with his and Ethelburga’s son, Ethelhun, and several of his relations, friends, and officers. Their example was soon followed by thousands of people of all ages and conditions. Ethelhun died while still wearing his white baptismal robes, and was buried in York Minster.
Penda, king of Mercia -a fierce heathen warrior, brother of Edwin’s first wife, Quenburga – invaded Edwin’s dominions, and defeated the Northumbrians in a great battle at Hatfield Chase, in Yorkshire. Edwin and his son Osfrith were killed. Ethelburga, with Paulinus, and her young children, escaped by sea to Kent, to the court of her brother Eadbald, taking with her many of Edwin’s treasures, especially a golden cup and cross, which were preserved at Canterbury in Bede’s time. Eanbald gave Ethelburga a Roman villa at Lyining, between Canterbury and the sea. There she built the first nunnery in England, and there she and her sister ST. EDBURGA ( 1 ) took the veil. Paulinus became Bishop of Rochester.
Ethelburga sent her son Wuscfrea, and Uffi son of her stepson Osfrith to Dagobert, king of France, to be educated. They died young, and were buried in France with royal honours. Besides Wuscfrea and Eaufleda, she had two children, who died before their father, and were buried in York Minster. Kthelburga lived as abbess of Lyming for several years. Her grave may still be seen there, and a well near the church bears the name of her sister St. Edburga, and was long believed to possess miraculous healing powers. Ethelburga was the first queen and the first widow of Anglo-Saxon race who took the veil. Edburga was the first virgin princess who did so. The church of St. Ethelburga, Shoreditch, is thought to be named in commemoration of this saint.
celt-saints (on 5 April)
Troparion of St Ethelburga Tone 4
O holy Ethelburga, thou didst blossom as a lily in Kent/ and then adorn Northumbria as bride of the martyr king Edwin./ Thou didst devote thy widowhood to thy convent in Kent./ Pray that we, following the example of thy long and fruitful life/ may spend all our year’s in God’s service and find mercy at the last.

Holy St Ethelburga, pray to God for us.


  1. I like the blossoming as a lily in Kent – very much.

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