Shrine of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17; Feast of St. Etheldreda, Abbes of Ely

Stained Glass of Etheldreda holding her church at Ely

St. Etheldreda was born around the Fenlands in of Mercia and East Anglia in 636. She married King Tondberct of the Fens early on but remained chaste. He presented Etheldreda with the Isle of Ely, to which she retired after hi death. She was, however, remarried to Ecgfrith, King of the Northumbrians but soon ran away to become a nun. Ecgfrith was not going to let her get away, so he pursued her. But when Etheldreda heard of his intent, she quickly fled back to the Isle of Ely where she established a double monastery. When King Ecgfrith finally arrived the sea became rough and a storm came off the North Sea so that he was unable to cross to the isle. Etheldreda was left in peace and continued to expand an build up the Monastery at Ely. When she died she was remembered as a holy person, and she was buried in a white marble tomb. Ely Cathedral became a great center of pilgrimage in the middle ages as hundreds flocked to her shrine. She still lies in Ely although the shrine was destroyed and Ely Cathedral remains a holy place for this purpose.

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