Calendar of Scottish Saints – Saint Ebba, Virgin and Abbess, and her Companions, Martyrs, A.D. 870


The monastery of Coldingham, in the ancient kingdom of Northumbria, founded in the seventh century by Saint Ebba, sister of the kings Oswald and Oswy, was governed in the ninth century by another Ebba, who presided over a band of holy virgins following the Rule of Saint Benedict. About the year 867 several thousand Danish warriors, under the command of the brothers Hinguar and Hubba, landed on the coast of East Anglia and desolated the whole north country. When Abbess Ebba received tidings of the near approach of the pagan hordes, who had already wrecked vengeance upon ecclesiastics, monks, and consecrated virgins, she summoned her nuns to Chapter, and in a moving discourse exhorted them to preserve at any cost the treasure of their chastity. Then seizing a razor, and calling upon her daughters to follow her heroic example, she mutilated her face in order to inspire the barbarian invaders with horror at the sight. The nuns without exception courageously followed the example of their abbess. When the Danes broke into the cloister and saw the nuns with faces thus disfigured, they fled in panic. Their leaders, burning with rage, sent back some of their number to set fire to the monastery, and thus the heroic martyrs perished in the common ruin of their house. Some chronicles give the 23rd August as the day of their martyrdom, but Scottish writers assign this as their feast day.

MLA Citation

  • Father Michael Barrett, OSB. “Saint Ebba, Virgin and Abbess, and her Companions, Martyrs, A.D. 870”. The Calendar of Scottish Saints, 1919. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 March 2014. Web. 16 January 2019. <>