Etheldreda, Abbess of Ely, c. 678

Etheldreda (in Old English Æthelthryth, known in medieval times as Saint Audrey) was the daughter of Anna, king of East Anglia, and was born in Suffolk in the first half of the seventh century. At an early age she was married to an ealdorman of the kingdom, but she remained a virgin. On his death three years later (c. 655), she retired to the Isle of Ely, her dowry. In 660, for political reasons, she was married again, this time to Egfrith, the king of Northumbria, who was then only fifteen years old and several years Etheldreda’s junior. He agreed that she should remain a virgin, but twelve years later he wished to consummate their marriage. Etheldreda, advised and aided by Wilfrid, the bishop of Northumbria, refused. Etheldreda left Egfrith to become a nun at Coldingham under her aunt Ebbe. Their marriage annulled, Egfrith married again.

Etheldreda founded the double monastery (for women and men) at Ely in 673. She oversaw the restoration of an old church there, reputedly destroyed by Penda, the pagan king of Mercia, and built her monastery on the site of the present Ely cathedral. For seven years she lived an austere life of penance and prayer, eating only one meal daily, wearing woolen clothes instead of linen, and keeping vigil each morning between Matins and dawn. She died around 678 of a tumor on the neck. She was revered as a woman of austerity, prayer, and prophecy.

taken from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Etheldreda, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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