(c. 962—985) nun

Related Overviews

Edgar (943—975) king of England

St Dunstan (c. 909—988) archbishop of Canterbury

St Ethelwold (c. 908—984)

Denys (d. c. 250)

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'Edith' can also refer to...




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(961–84), virgin. Born in Kemsing (Kent), the daughter of Edgar and Wulfthryth, his concubine, a novice at Wilton, Edith was brought up from infancy at Wilton, where her mother returned after her birth. Two chaplains of this royal convent undertook her education, Radbod of Reims and Benno of Trèves. This comprised not only letters but also script and illumination, sewing and embroidery. Edith also knew Dunstan, Ethelwold, and Elstan of Ramsbury. As the king's daughter she could have attained an important position in society three times, but three times she refused, preferring the obscurity of the cloister. Once, at her profession, her father, King Edgar, tried to remove her; another time she was nominated abbess of Winchester, Barking, and Amesbury, but over all three she appointed superiors and remained with her mother, now abbess of Wilton; in 978 after the murder of her half-brother Edward the Martyr, certain magnates wished her to become queen, but she refused.

Instead she built an oratory in honour of Denys, which was decorated by Benno with murals of the Passion of Christ and the martyrdom of Denys. At the dedication Dunstan was supposed to have prophesied her approaching death and the incorruption of her thumb. Edith was conspicuous for her personal service of the poor and her familiarity with wild animals. She died at the age of only twenty-three; miracles at her tomb helped to establish her cult. Neither her apparently illegitimate birth nor King Cnut's scepticism about any child of Edgar attaining holiness prevented her feast spreading to many monasteries and the Sarum calendar; three ancient church dedications are known. Her relics were translated in 997; from then on she was, with Iwi, Wilton's principal saint. Feast: 16 September; translation, 3 November

From The Oxford Dictionary of Saints in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Christianity.

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