Monday, September 08, 2008


Saint Etheldreda (also known as Audrey, Æthelthryth, Ethelreda, Edilthride, Ediltrudis, Edeltrude)

Queen of South Gyrwe, Queen of Northumbria, Abbess of Ely
Born: AD 630 at Exning, Suffolk - Died: 23rd June AD 679 at Ely Abbey, Cambridgeshire

She was the daughter of King Anna of East Anglia and Queen Hereswide of England.

17 years after her death her body was found to be incorrupt. The linen cloths in which her body was wrapped were as fresh as the day she had been buried. Her body was placed in a stone sarcophagus of Roman origin, found at Grantchester and reburied.

At the Reformation, all their shrines were destroyed and the incorrupt body parts dispersed. When her shrine at Ely Cathedral was destroyed, the saintly Queen Etheldreda’s hand was preserved by a devout Catholic family. The still incorrupt hand was enshrined, some 400 years later, when a little Catholic Church was re-established in Ely.

An apocryphal story relates how the present Queen [Elizabeth II], on a tour of the cathedral, met the crusty Irish priest of the little Catholic Church. She asked him if it wouldn’t be a ‘nice gesture’ to return the hand of St Etheldreda to the cathedral; he replied that it would be a nice gesture for her to return the cathedral to the Catholic church.

1 comment:

EdB said...

The story at the end is true. My mother was there. I don't remember the priest at the time being Irish though, or particularly crusty.