Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Sexburgh, Abbess

Article

She was daughter of Anna the religious king of the East-Angles, and his devout queen Hereswide, sister to Saint Hilda. A pious education laid in her the foundation of that eminent sanctity for which she was most conspicuous during the whole course of her life. She was given in marriage to Ercombert, king of Kent, a prince of excellent dispositions, which she contributed exceedingly to improve by her counsels and example. She had a great share in all his zealous undertakings for promoting virtue and the happiness of his people, especially in extirpating the last remains of idolatry in his dominions, and in enforcing the observance of Lent, and other precepts of the church by wholesome laws. Her virtue commanded the reverence, and her humility and devotion raised the admiration of all her subjects; and her goodness and unbounded charity gained her the love of all, especially the poor. She had a longing desire to consecrate herself wholly to God in religious retirement; and that others at least might attend the divine service for her night and day without impediment, she began in her husband’s lifetime to found a monastery of holy virgins in the isle of Shepey, on the coast of Kent, which she finished after his death in 664, whilst her son Egbert sat on the throne. Here she assembled seventy-four nuns, but hearing of the great sanctity of Saint Etheldreda at Ely, and being desirous to live in greater obscurity, and to be more at liberty to employ all her thoughts on heaven, she left the kingdom of Kent, and retired to Ely before the year 679, in which she was chosen to succeed her sister Saint Etheldreda, or Audry, in the government of that house. Sixteen years after she caused the body of that saint to be taken up; and passed herself to bliss in a good old age, on the 6th of July, towards the end of the seventh century. Her monastery in Shepey, called Le Mynstre in Shepey, was destroyed by the Danes, but rebuilt in 1130, and consecrated by William, archbishop of Canterbury, in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Sexburgh; and it subsisted in the hands of Benedictin nuns till the dissolution of abbeys. Saint Ermenilda, daughter of king Ercumbert and Saint Sexburgh, was married to Wulpher, king of Mercia, but after his death retired to Ely, near her mother and her two aunts Saint Audry and Saint Withburg, three daughters of king Anna. Saint Wereburgh, daughter of Saint Ermenilda and king Wulpher, was a nun at Hearburgh, (which seems to have been near Stanford or Croyland.) Her relics were venerated at Hearburgh, till in the ninth century they were removed to Leicester.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Sexburgh, Abbess”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 3 July 2013. Web. 30 August 2014. <>