Æthelthryth, St

views updated

Æthelthryth, St ( St Ætheldreda, St Audrey) (c.630–79). Daughter of King Anna of East Anglia, and virgin wife of Tondbert, of the south Gyrwe, and secondly of Ecgfrith of Northumbria, who eventually released her to monastic life at Coldingham, north of Berwick. Æthelthryth founded a double monastery at Ely on the East Anglian–Mercian frontier, perhaps the first south-eastern house for women. The promotion of her cult (in 695), by Wilfrid (who had received land for St Andrew's, Hexham, from her) and by her sister and successor Sexburh, showed Gallic influence and, after Æthelwold refounded Ely (c.970), gave title to church and to lands, to her community, and respectability as rulers of East Anglia to her royal West Saxon devotees. Her usefulness was as great as her sanctity. Bede wrote a hymn on virginity in her honour. Her cult survived the Norman Conquest.

A. E. Redgate