Saint Botulph of Ikanhoe

Also known as

  • Botolph
  • Botulf
  • Botwulf

Memorial

Profile

Born to a Christian Saxon noble family. Brother of Saint Adolph of Utrecht. Educated with his brother at the monastery of Cnobersburg (Burgh Castle), Suffolk under the direction of its founder, Saint Fursey. When Mercian forces under King Penda invaded the region, the boys were sent to study at the monastery at Bosanham, Sussex. He became a Benedictine monk at Farmoutiere-en-Brie, Gaul (modern northeastern France), and was sent back to the British Isles in 647 to establish the Benedictine Order there.

With the support of Saint Syre, Saint Aubierge, and their brother, King Anna of East Anglia, Botulph founded the monastery of Ikanhoe in East Anglia, declining the offer of a part of the royal estate, and settling for a wild, barren site that was removed from people, reported to be haunted by demons, and which would require endless work to sustain the monks. For many years it was believed that the area that grew up around it came to be called Botulph’s Town, contracted to Botulphston, and later contracted to Boston in Lincolnshire, but recent reasearch has shown that the original site is another location. The Saxon Chronicle indicates that by 654 Botulph had attracted enough brother monks and hermits that work begain on the monastery. Through hard work and faith, the monastery grew in population; the monks built several structures, turned large areas of marsh and scrub into productive farming and grazing lands, and dispelled the people’s fears of demons.

Botulph served as spiritual director for Saint Ceolfrith, and worked as a travelling missionary through rough, bandit-plagued areas of East Anglia, Kent and Sussex. His legacy continued for centuries in the strength of the Benedictine movement in the Isles, and in the dozens of churches named for him, many of them built at city gates to serve as safe-haven for travellers in times when robbers roamed the roads, and many in port or river towns.

Born

Died

  • 17 June 680 of natural causes following a lengthy illness
  • he died while being carried to chapel for compline services
  • buried at Ikanhoe
  • relics moved in 870 to keep them from being destroyed by invading Danes
  • relics transferred to Grundisburgh in 983
  • relics later distributed to monasteries at Thornery, Westminster, and Edmundsburg, Suffolk
  • tradition says that for safety the cask of relics destined for Edmundsburg were taken there in the middle of the night, but the travellers were guided by a light that hovered above the relics‘ new shrine
  • processions of the relics through Edmundsburgh has ended droughts there

Canonized

Patronage

Representation

  • abbot holding a church in his hand
  • abbot holding a monastery in his hand
  • blue field with undulating silver lines superimposed with an inverted gold chevron with a gold cross at its point (his coat of arms)
Additional Information

Readings

The wearied man of God looked about him everywhere, till at last he found, by the mercy of God, such a desert spot which was just the God-forsaken, devil-possessed place he was in search of. - unknown ancient writer describing Botulph’s selection of sites for his monastery

The evil spirits who people the place were disturbed at his coming. A noxious vapour was exhaled from the ground, and the daemons gave vent to terrifying groans. They had dwelt there, they said, for a long time, and had thought to do so for ever. They had no other place to go to. Why could not Saint Botolph seek some other spot, since the whole world was singing his praises? He was acting unkindly in disturbing them. - unknown ancient writer describing the problems Botulph caused evil spirits that inhabited the site of his Ikanhoe monastery

Saint Botulph sought a desert spot
And found a lonely mound,
He opened there a house of prayer
And made it holy ground.

He lived a humble, quiet life,
From crowded scenes apart;
Yet others often sought him out
To share his joy of heart.

- from a hymn by Jane Dansie, Castle Methodist Church, Colchester, England

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Botulph of Ikanhoe“. Saints.SQPN.com. 25 May 2014. Web. 21 November 2014. <>