St. Edith (+984), Abbess of Wilton, Daughter of Saint Edgar and Saint Wilfrida, Who Was Distinguished for Her Generosity to the Poor and Familiarity with Wild Animals
(Editha, Eadgith)

16 September

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Born at Kensington, England, in 961; died 984. Saint Edith was the illegitimate daughter of King Edgar and Saint Wulfrida (Wilfrith, f.d. September 9), a noblewoman whom he had been raped. (The king underwent a seven-year penance for this crime according to the "vita" of Saint Dunstan (f.d. May 19).) After the death of his wife, Edgar entreated Wulfrida to marry him. She rejected his solicitations and took the religious veil at Wilton instead. Thus, Saint Edith entered the convent as a baby and never left it, so that, in the words of the "Roman Martyrology", "she rather knew not this world than forsook it."

Although Edith was always sheltered from the allurements of the world, Wulfrida also raised her carefully and taught her the lessons of Christian perfection. Edith chose to be professed at the age of fifteen in the presence of her father, who gave his permission only after a struggle. Thereafter Edith combined a life of prayer with one of active charity. She fed the poor, tended the sick, and dressed their most loathsome sores.

Edith expressed her great devotion to the crucified Christ through the constant repetition of the Sign of the Cross. She also undertook austerities, e.g., abstinence and the wearing of a hair shirt.

Three times she refused the abbacy of three different convents, preferring to remain a simple nun at Wilton under the direction of her mother, who was abbess. When her father and then her half-brother Saint Edgar the Peaceful (f.d. July 8) died, she was pressed by her brother's adherents to accept the throne, but refused it.

Before her death at the age of 22, Edith built the church of Saint Denis at Wilton. During its dedication, Dunstan cried profusely because he had a premonition of her death. Less than two months later Saint Dunstan assisted at her deathbed. She was buried in Saint Denis. William of Malmesbury, writing at the beginning of the 12th century, relates that her feast was kept with great devotion (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Husenbeth).

In art, Saint Edith is depicted as a royal nun (not an abbess) giving alms to the poor. She may also be shown with a purse or washing the feet of the poor (Roeder). Saint Edith is commemorated in the diocese of Clifton and venerated at Wilton (Benedictines, Roeder).

The Holy Well named for her, located at the village where she spent her childhood.

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