Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Obscure Anglo-Saxon Saints: St. Erconwald of London

St. Erconwald was a kinsman of King Offa of Mercia and came into a considerable amount of wealth from the patrimony left to him by virtue of his royal connections, which he used to found a monastery and a convent in Essex. Over the convent he placed his sister, Ethelburga, who later became a saint as well. Erconwald himself led the solitary life of a monk until in 675 he was called by King Sebbi and the Archbishop of Canterbury to fill the vacant See of London.

He was known for his extraordinary sanctity, and Bede attests that many were healed who came in contact with the litter on which he was carried in his old age. During his episcopate he obtained many privileges for his See from the king and enlarged the flock in London considerably.

Erconwald died in 690 and was buried in the cathedral of St. Paul's in London, where many miracles happened at his tomb. In 1087 the cathedral was ravaged by a fire, but the linen cloths on his tomb miraculously remained intact. So esteemed was Erconwald in the late Anglo-Saxon / early Norman periods that in 1148 his relics were translated to the High Altar. A decree of 1386 ordered the feast of Erconwald's death and the translation of his relics to be celebrated as a feast of the first class in England. At the time of the English Reformation, all the jewels of his tomb were plundered and the relics themselves lost, though it is rumored that they now rest under the east altar, though it is far from certain.

St. Erconwald, ora pro nobis!

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