Today is the feast day of Saint Sexburga. Ora pro nobis.
Sexburga [Seaxburh (Old English: Sexburh] was the daughter of Anna, King of the East Angles, and was married about 640 to Earconbert, King of Kent. She lived with her husband for twenty-four years, and by him had two sons, Egbert and Lothar, both successively Kings of Kent, and two daughters, both of whom became nuns and saints: St. Earcongota, a nun of Faremontier, and St. Ermenhild, who married Wulfhere, King of Mercia, and after his death took the veil and became Abbess of Ely. (1,3)
Within her husband’s lifetime, Sexburga began to build a religious house at Sheppey, in that kingdom, where holy virgins might attend divine service for her, day and night. Erconbert died of the “yellow plague” that desolated England in AD 664 and, in widowhood, Sexburga was regent, for a time, on behalf of her son, Egbert I. When he had no further need of her, she retired to her nunnery and assembled seventy-four nuns there. (2)
The “Liber Eliensis” contains the farewell speech made by Sexburga to her nuns at Minster, and an account of her reception at Ely. St. Etheldreda died, probably in 679, and Sexburga was elected abbess. She was still alive and acting as abbess in 695, when she presided at the translation of St. Etheldreda’s relics to a new shrine she had erected for her at Ely, which included a sarcophagus of white marble from the ruined city of Grantchester. (3)
She lived to a considerable age, dying on 6th July around AD 700.
Sexburga was buried at Ely, near her sister St. Etheldreda and her feast is kept on 6 July. (3)
Image: Chester (England). Cathedral: Refectory – Eastern window (1916): Saint Sexburga of Ely (detail) (4)