St. Withburgh was the youngest daughter of the pious king Anna of East Anglia (dominated 635-653 or 654), who, in accordance to custom, had six holy youngsters and was martyred by the pagan King Penda of Mercia. Although the Venerable Bede doesn’t point out her, we find out about St. Withburgh from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, early traditions and the Latin manuscript referred to as Liber Eliensis (“the Book of Ely”), which is a chronicle compiled within the monastery in Ely at the start of the twelfth century and incorporates, amongst different issues, temporary Lives of a number of East Anglian feminine saints.
When Withburgh was a little bit woman, her father was murdered. Tradition holds that she was introduced up by her nurse on her father’s property in Holkham – a village on the north coast of Norfolk. The twelfth-century Life relates how Withburgh, who was educated there by her tutors, as a woman used to play with different youngsters on the seashore. Once as they have been taking part in, the younger saint gathered up small pebbles combined with sand in a pile, which miraculously started swelling till it became one stable mass. The saint made the signal of the cross, and the mass of pebbles and sand couldn’t be scattered from that day on. The nurse then predicted holy church could be constructed on this spot, and that is precisely what occurred. This story could be understood spiritually. A church was erected at Holkham within the eighth century on a man-made mound, devoted to St. Withburgh, and its successor stands there to at the present time.
Withburgh led an austere ascetic life as an anchoress in Holkham for some years and in reminiscence of her religious labors this place was renamed “Withburgstowe” (“the holy place of St. Withburgh”) for a number of centuries. Later she moved to the settlement, now referred to as Dereham (previously East Dereham) in central Norfolk the place she remained for the remaining of her life. The saint of God lived a holy life there and based a convent, making a group of nuns. It was written that by the time of her repose the nunnery constructing was not accomplished. From all appearances, the group organized for the native inhabitants to be taught and cared for. Remarkably, the Mother of God appeared to Withburgh greater than as soon as throughout her solitary life. Thus she is in a really choose firm of early English saints who have been discovered worthy of conversing with the Virgin Mary (one other instance is St. Egwin of Worcester, founder of Evesham Monastery).
It was associated that at one time throughout constructing work the saint had nothing to feed her staff and nuns with besides for dry bread. She started to wish fervently and the Mother of God appeared to her in a imaginative and prescient, commanding her to inform some sisters to go to a spring close by. The subsequent morning the sisters discovered two wild does (roe deer) there. The does let the sisters milk them and miraculously they supplied loads of milk. They would come to the identical place each morning and have been milked. So by miracle all of the group and visitors have been equipped with milk for a few years. The provides of butter and cheese by no means ran out on the convent. Thus, Dereham is one of the holy locations of England blessed by the looks of the Mother of God. (It is lower than fifteen miles away from the village of Walsingham, the place, in response to custom, in 1061 the Mother of God appeared to a Norman noblewoman Richeldis de Faverches. This resulted within the basis of one of the biggest shrines in England: a duplicate of the home of Nazareth, the place the Archangel Gabriel introduced Mary the Good Tidings that She was to grow to be the Mother of the Savior of the world. A monastery and a wonderworking statue of Theotokos have been additionally created there).
But the proprietor of these lands yielded to temptation: He started to envy St. Withburgh and determined to hurt her. He pursued the does together with his hounds and thus prevented them from going to the spring. He even tried to kill them, however his horse by accident threw him and he broke his neck, dying a depressing dying as Divine retribution. This legend is depicted on the signal of Dereham within the city heart to this day. Hearing these great tales, increasingly individuals started to come back to Withburgh for recommendation. The holy virgin and anchoress Withburgh reposed within the Lord on March 17/30, 743, at a really superior age and was buried on the churchyard of the church she had based in Dereham.
Fifty-five years later, in 798, as was attested to by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the relics of Withburgh have been exhumed and transferred to the identical church. They have been discovered incorrupt. Veneration for the saint grew and tons of of believers from far and vast flocked to her shrine for therapeutic and comfort. In the tenth century, England noticed a interval of revival of monastic life and piety. In that century Ely Monastery was reopened and the relics of St. Etheldreda (its founder in 673), her eldest sister St. Sexburga and niece St. Ermenilda (Ermengild) have been ultimately enshrined there. In 974, Brithnoth, Abbot of Ely, deemed it affordable to maneuver the relics of Etheldreda’s youngest sister Withburgh to Ely and place her physique along with the previous. According to custom, this was completed secretly at night time and in opposition to the Dereham townsfolk’s will. They started to grieve their loss however on the identical day a pure therapeutic spring gushed forth in the previous grave of St. Withburgh beside the church. It was considered an indication of comfort from the saint with whose bodily stays that they had needed to half. The holy effectively was devoted to St. Withburgh and was for a lot of centuries famend for its healing properties, attracting crowds of pilgrims. Its waters have all the time remained pure and it has by no means run dry for the previous 1,000 years regardless of the climate. And this miraculous effectively nonetheless exists.
In Ely (Cambridgeshire) veneration for St. Withburgh continued, although it by no means “eclipsed” that of Etheldreda. As was recorded within the Ely chronicles, the relics of St. Withburgh have been opened in 1102 and moved to a new web site throughout the Ely church, and 4 years later they have been translated into the brand new church (now the large Ely Cathedral) along with the relics of Sts. Etheldreda and different native saints. And whereas it was discovered that the relics of Sts. Sexburga and Ermenilda had been decreased to bones by that point, the relics of St. Etheldreda remained whole, whereas these of St. Withburgh remained not solely intact, but in addition contemporary and with versatile limbs! She seemed as if she have been alive. This account was recorded by Monk Robert of Ely after the interpretation.
We see that on this manner the Lord confirmed his particular favor to Withburgh (though this isn’t to decrease the significance of different saints), who had lived as an anchoress in seclusion for a few years till her nineties, gaining the considerable grace of God. In England there have been only a handful of information when saints’ relics remained completely incorrupt centuries after their repose. Unfortunately, the shrines with all of the relics at Ely Monastery have been destroyed by the “reformers” beneath Henry VIII in 1541. No traces of the relics survive; nonetheless, in response to the current Ely Cathedral archivist, they do have now some fragments of the thirteenth century shrine base, and an intriguing shrine construction, which was as soon as thought to have been St. Etheldreda’s however which, because the architectural historian John Maddison suggests, could have been the bottom of St. Withburga’s shrine (John Maddison, Ely Cathedral Design and Meaning (2000), p. 81). And now allow us to speak in regards to the holy locations the place the saintly princess and abbess Withburgh is remembered.
The fairly market city of Dereham (till lately: East Dereham; the title presumably that means “deer enclosure”) stands within the coronary heart of Norfolk. The convent based on this web site by Withburgh existed till the late ninth-century Danish raids. In the 960s Ely Monastery helped restore the church at Dereham and, although St. Withburgh’s relics have been moved to Ely, pilgrims continued to come back in nice numbers to the Dereham holy effectively via the Middle Ages. After the Reformation even the veneration of wells was prohibited. The effectively was half-forgotten, however within the late eighteenth century a bathhouse was constructed over it within the hope that the city would grow to be a well-known resort. However, the construction by no means grew to become in style and in 1880 a neighborhood priest bought permission to drag it down. After that the effectively was surrounded by iron railings to guard it. Since the 1950s St. Withburgh’s effectively has been saved clear completely, though entry to it’s allowed solely at specific occasions of the yr. Flowers develop across the effectively. It is located within the grounds on the west facet of the city’s massive St. Nicholas Church the place Withburgh is commemorated in some ways. Each yr on the primary Sunday of July (closest to her feast-day) the congregation has a service in St. Nicholas Church that concludes with the Rector dipping a sprig of rosemary within the water from the effectively and sprinkling it among the many worshippers. The current church dates again to the twelfth century, although it existed in Saxon occasions. In the late eighteenth century its tower was used as jail for holding French prisoners of conflict, one of whom, the officer Jean de Narde, is buried on this churchyard. Dereham was broken throughout an air raid within the First World War, however the church was left unscathed.
Among the notable residents of Dereham was the poet William Cowper (1731-1800), who composed Olney Hymns, died and was buried at St. Nicholas’, the place he’s commemorated in stained glass. The temple boasts of three monuments commemorating St. Withburgh: a tremendous new sculpture depicting Withburgh, which was made by a nun who was a member of the congregation for a few years; a portray of Withburgh on the fifteenth-century display (in the Lady Chapel) which got here from Oxborough Church; and a depiction of the saint on the painted panel behind the High Altar. This attention-grabbing church has a wealth of different gems. They embody a 1480 “seven-sacrament font” containing carvings of the seven sacraments on all its sides, one of the few surviving early “eagle-lecterns” within the nation (courting to the identical time), a plaque in commemoration of many church rectors all through the centuries on one of the church partitions, and so forth. Its chancel, the Lady Chapel, transepts with splendid ceiling artworks and quite a few chapels are crammed with many delights from antiquity and fashionable occasions. Most of the stained glass is from the Victorian period. St. Nicholas’ uniquely has two towers: a late medieval indifferent large bell-tower and a more recent lantern-tower in the church crossing offering the church with gentle. Even the temple’s 500-year-old porch is adorned with non secular carvings and figures.
The tiny village of Holkham (the title presumably means “holy village” or “homestead in the hollow”) now consists of a couple of farmers’ cottages. The nearest city is Wells-next-Sea. The village sits on the territory of the picturesque eighteenth-century Palladian stately dwelling referred to as Holkham Hall (belonging to the Earl of Leicester, it covers four,000 acres), surrounded by the Holkham nationwide nature reserve, with a deer park (as much as three,000 deer grazing there) and a lake and a seashore close by. The enormous flint church, standing on the location of its eighth-century predecessor, could be discovered at a distance from the village in a woodland clearing, excessive on a round mound. It is the one church on this planet devoted to St. Withburgh and retains her holy reminiscence. Officially the temple is located on the grounds of the property, and in winter, companies are held within the corridor’s non-public chapel.
Saxon stays of an earlier church (burned down by the Danes) together with a Norman construction have been found at the church’s west finish throughout excavations. The Norman church was rebuilt on the identical web site within the thirteenth century within the Early English Gothic model, and the current bell-tower principally dates again to that interval. The tower at one time was used as a dwelling and likewise a telegraph. In the fourteenth century, the temple was prolonged within the Decorated Gothic model, however by the 1700s it had fallen into disrepair. In 1767 Lady Margaret, the Countess Dowager of Leicester, initiated a large-scale restore program within the temple, which saved it from collapse and significantly beautified it.
100 years later, an in depth renovation (in truth a rebuilding) program was self-sacrificingly sponsored and supervised by Lady Juliana (1825-1870), the spouse of the second Earl of Leicester. She is commemorated contained in the church in a memorial; her grave was initially within the purposefully-built church mausoleum, however over thirty years later she was reburied in a particular plot within the churchyard (her coffin was in excellent situation). The reconstruction was designed by the architect James Colling (1816-1905). In the 1990s, the seventh Earl of Leicester continued the custom of restoring and redecorating St. Withburgh’s. The solely memorial to our saint inside the Holkham church is the carvings on the top of the choir stalls that depict her holding a mannequin of the church, with a doe at her ft (data taken from the booklet on Holkham church revealed by Maureen Marr and Richard Worsley in 2003, with the present churchwarden’s variety permission). The church retains many historic options together with beautiful alabaster and marble monuments and the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth century home windows. Other objects of particular curiosity embody the plentiful native Coke household memorials and twelfth-century coffin lids. The general ambiance inside is of a spacious, gentle, prayerful and heat church.
In artwork St. Withburgh is often depicted as a topped abbess, typically with two roe deer at her ft, generally with a church in her hand. She is represented on a minimum of six Norfolk church screens and plenty of stained glass home windows. For instance, she seems at Barnham Broom church holding a mannequin of her church; at North Burlingham church holding a church and with deer at her ft; on Great Ryburgh church display; on a tremendous stained glass at Fritton church (all of them in Norfolk); in St. Mary’s Church in Woolpit in Suffolk, the place she is depicted on a fifteenth-century rood display along with Sts. Etheldreda, Edmund and Felix.
Thus the reminiscence of this holy virgin, solitary, visionary, royal princess and abbess is preserved in her native area, and we hope that her veneration will enhance among the many Orthodox.
Holy Mother Withburgh, pray to God for us!