Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Ebba, Abbess, and Her Companions, Martyrs

Article

In the ninth century Saint Ebba governed the great monastery of Coldingham, situated in Merch, or the Marshes, a province in the shire of Berwick, which was for some time subject to the English, at other times to the Scots. This was at that time the largest monastery in all Scotland, and had been founded by another Saint Ebba, who was sister to Saint Oswald and Oswi, kings of Northumberland. In the year 870, according to Matthew of Westminster, or rather in 874, according to the Scottish historians, in an incursion of the cruel Danish pirates, Hinguar and Hubba, this abbess was anxious, not for her life, but for her chastity, to preserve which she had recourse to the following stratagem: Having assembled her nuns in the Chapterhouse, after making a moving discourse to her sisters, she, with a razor, cut off her nose and upper-lip, and was courageously imitated by all the holy community. The frightful spectacle which they exhibited in this condition protected their virginity. But the infidels, enraged at their disappointment, set fire to the monastery, and these holy virgins died in the flames spotless victims to their heavenly spouse, the lover and rewarder of chaste souls.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Ebba, Abbess, and Her Companions, Martyrs”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 2 April 2013. Web. 23 May 2018. <>