St. Eanswythe of Folkestone, Abbess
(also known as Eanswida, Eanswith(a), Eanswide, Eanswyth)

12 September

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Died August 31, c. 640; this is probably a memorial of the translation of her relics; feast day at Saint Augustine, Canterbury, and Durham is celebrated on August 31.

From her infancy Saint Eanswythe, the daughter of King Eadbald of Kent and granddaughter of King Saint Ethelbert, found delight in prayer. Rejecting the world and its foolish vanities, she refused all offers of marriage, which she felt would interrupt her devotions and contemplation. King Eadbald finally consented to allowing her to found a monastery on the coast near Folkestone, Kent, where she served as its abbess and died at an early age. It seems likely that she was trained in France and that hers was the first convent in England.

The monastery was destroyed by the Danes, but restored by King Athelstan, then refounded in 1095 for the Black Benedictines. Part of it was swallowed up by the sea, and so the community was moved to Folkestone. Her relics were translated to the church built by Eadbald in honour of Saint Peter, but later known as Saints Mary and Eanswythe. In 1885, a Saxon coffer was found in the north wall containing the bones of a young woman, which were assumed to be those of Saint Eanswythe (Benedictines, Farmer, Husenbeth).

In art, Saint Eanswythe is portrayed as a crowned abbess with a book and two fish. She is venerated at Folkestone (Roeder), where her image is incorporated on the town's seals (Farmer).

Icon of our holy Mother St. Eanswitha, Royal Abbess of Folkestone
Larger size

Service for our Holy Mother Eanswythe, Abbess of Folkestone

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Page last updated: 5 October 2008
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