Saint Ebbe the Elder

Also known as

  • Aebbe the Elder
  • Ebba the Elder
  • Tabbs

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Daughter of the pagan King Aethelfrith the Ravager of Bernicia and Princess Aacha of Deira, one of seven children. Sister of Saint Oswald of Northumbria and King Oswiu. Niece of Saint Ethelreda. When her father was killed in battle when Ebbe was about ten years old, her mother fled with the family for the court of King Eochaid Buide at Dunadd in modern Scotland. There she converted to Christianity.

A Scottish prince, Aidan, wished to marry Ebbe, and the family was in favour, but Ebbe was drawn to the religious life. Benedictine nun at the double monastery at Coldingham c.655, taking the veil from Saint Finan of Iona. Aidan, determined to marry her, followed, planning to carry her off. She fled to a high rock. The tide came in, cutting her off from the land and her pursuer. Because of her prayers, the tide remained high for three days, holding off Aidan until he realized the divine nature of her protection, and gave up.

Founded the monastery of Ebchester (i.e., Ebbe’s castle or Ebbe’s camp) on an old Roman camp on the River Dawent, in County Durham, land given her by her brother Oswiu. Later, during one of the disruptions in the kingdom, Aebbe was captured, but escaped, fleeing in a small boat down the River Humber and out to sea. A supernatural being then sailed the craft safely through dangerous seas till it landed on a spit of land in Berwickshire, defended on three sides by the sea, and on the forth by swampy land. A group of monks, singing in a church that was later renamed for Ebbe, witnessed this, and became some of the first brothers at the large double monastery she founded there. Abbess.

Friend of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, who normally avoided women but came to visit Ebbe. Saint Ethelreda stayed at her monastery as a nun in 672. Peacemaker among the local laity. Though she was noted for her own piety, Ebbe had trouble enforcing discipline at the monastery. The monks and nuns became very lax and worldly. One of the brothers, Adomnan, received a vision prophesying that the monastery would burn to the ground; it did, not long after Ebbe’s death.

Born

Died

Canonized

Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Ebbe the Elder”. Saints.SQPN.com. 21 November 2012. Web. 21 April 2014. <http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-ebbe-the-elder/>