(fl. c. 690—710) abbess of Barking

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(d. c.712), abbess of Barking. According to Bede, Hildelith was the successor of Ethelburga, first abbess of Barking and sister of Erkenwald; she ruled for many years, well into old age, with firmness and the discipline of the rule; she enlarged the rather cramped monastic buildings and translated the relics of nuns with a reputation for holiness from the cemetery into the church. She was also known personally to both Aldhelm and Boniface; Aldhelm dedicated to her and her nuns his treatise on Virginity, whose elaborate language presupposed advanced Latin reading skills, while Boniface praised her highly in his letters and mentions one of her visions which she had described to him. Barking was probably founded c.666: Hildelith, according to Florence of Worcester, succeeded in 675. Later writers state that she was trained at Faremoutier or Chelles (which is likely enough), that she was a princess (less likely), and that she trained Ethelburga before becoming a nun under her rule. Possibly this story arose because Barking was a family monastery which belonged to Erkenwald, so his sister would have been the first abbess. Hildelith's rule, however, seems to have been more important in the history of the house. Feast: usually 24 March, but also 22 December or 3 September. Barking had translation feasts on 7 March and 23 September.

From The Oxford Dictionary of Saints in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Christianity.

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