Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Eanswide, Virgin and Abbess


Seventh Age.

Saint Ethelbert, the first Christian king among the English, was succeeded in the kingdom of Kent by his son Eadbald, who, though he was at first an impious and idolatrous prince, became afterwards a zealous Christian, and a fervent penitent, as appears from his religious foundations, and from the letters which were addressed to him by the popes. His daughter Eanswide added lustre to her birth by the eminent sanctity of her life. The great truths of our holy religion sunk so deep in her tender heart, that, from her infancy, her whole delight was in prayer and the love of God. Hence she despised the world, and all its foolish vanities and amusements. She rejected all proposals that tended to engage her in marriage, fearing the duties of that state, though good and just in themselves, would interrupt her darling exercises of devotion and heavenly contemplation. Having, by perseverance and importunity, obtained at length her father’s consent, she founded a monastery of nuns upon the sea-coast, close by Folkstone, in Kent. Here she sacrificed the affections of her heart to her heavenly Spouse night and day in penance and prayer, till she was called to rest from her labours on the last day of August, in the seventh century. The sea having afterwards swallowed up part of this priory, the nunnery was removed to Folkstone, and the saint’s relics were deposited in that church which had been built by her father, King Eadbald, in honour of Saint Peter; but, after this translation of her relics, was often known by her name. Saint Eanswide was famous for many miracles; her chief festival in the English calendar was kept on the 12th of September, probably the day of the translation of her relics, or of the dedication of some church in her honour.

Holy retirement, perfect purity of mind and body and the uninterrupted exercises of heavenly contemplation and prayer, are then only great and excellent virtues, when founded in sincere humility, and improved by divine charity. By neglecting this, many may so quit the world, and embrace a severe course of life, as only to be martyrs of the devil, by seeking themselves even in things they have renounced. The saints, who made this sacrifice to God, were always solicitous to render it complete, and they showed themselves more perfect as they saw more and more their own spiritual poverty, and continually aspiring with the utmost ardour after greater perfection; for, as Saint Bernard remarks, no one is perfect but in proportion to the fervour with which he labours to become more so, and to the sincere humility wherewith he sees how far he falls short in every duty, and how much he is a slothful and unprofitable servant.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Eanswide, Virgin and Abbess”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 11 September 2013. Web. 19 September 2020. <>