Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Erkonwald, Bishop of London, Confessor


He was a prince of the royal blood, son of Annas, the holy king of the East-Angles, or, as some say, of a certain prince named Offa. The better to disengage himself from the ties and incumbrances of the world, he forsook his own country, and retired into the kingdom of the East-Saxons, where he employed his large estate in founding two great monasteries, one at Chertsey, in Surrey, near the Thames, the other for nuns, at Barking in Essex; of this latter he appointed his sister Edilburga abbess. The former he governed with great sanctity, till he was forced out of his dear solitude by King Sebba, in 675, and consecrated bishop of London by Saint Theodorus. He much augmented the buildings and revenues of Saint Paul’s, and obtained for that church great privileges from the king. Dugdale, in his history of that cathedral, proves that it had originally been a temple of Diana, from many heads of oxen dug up when the east part of it was rebuilt, and from the structure of the chambers of Diana, near that place. Bede bears witness that God honoured Saint Erkonwald with a great gift of miracles, and that his horse-litter, or chips cut off from it, cured distempers to his own time: and his sanctity has been most renowned through all succeeding ages. He sat eleven years, according to his old epitaph, which Mr. Weever has preserved. His tomb in the cathedral of Saint Paul’s was famous for frequent miracles, as is mentioned by Bede, Malmesbury, etc. His body was removed from the middle of the church, by a solemn translation, on the 14th of November, in 1148, and deposited above the high altar, on the east wall. Dugdale describes the riches and numerous oblations which adorned his shrine, and laments that they had lately seen the destruction of this magnificent church, which was the glory of our nation; the monuments of so many famous men torn to pieces, and their bones and dust pulled out of their graves. In which barbarous search the body of the holy King Sebba was found embalmed with perfumes, and clothed with rich robes: also several bishops in their proper habits. But, says that diligent author, I could never hear that they found more than a ring or two with rubies, and a chalice of no great value. He adds: Under part of the choir was the subterraneous parish church of Saint Faith, called S. Fides in Cryptis. At the change of religion, the body of Saint Erkonwald disappeared, in 1533, says Weever. F. Jerom Porter, in his lives of the English saints, testifies, that it was then buried at the upper end of the choir, near the wall. No mention is made of it in any accounts since the new fabric was erected.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Erkonwald, Bishop of London, Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 28 April 2013. Web. 20 June 2021. <>