Æbbe the Younger

 
 
 

Category: Nuns, Abbesses
Era: Medieval
Region: Europe

Æbbe the Younger (d. 870) Abbess of Coldingham, Ireland. The Abby was founded as a double separate monastery for men and women by S. Æbbe the Elder in 642; in 660 he also founded Ebchester, in County Durham. At the time both were in the Kingdom of Northumbria, united by Æbbe the Elder’s father, Æthelfrith, in 604.[1]

Viking conquerors led by the sons of Ragner Lothbroc, King of Sjaelland and Uppsala (parts of modern Sweden and Denmark), conquered Norway and landed in East Anglia, sailed to the mouth of Tweed River, and sacked and burnt Coldingham in 870.  As the army approached, Æbbe persuaded her nuns to disfigure themselves by cutting off their noses and upper lips to avoid rape.  This incident is first reported in surviving sources by Matthew Paris, a Benedictine monk of St Albans, in his Chronica Majora and by Roger of Wendover in Flores Historiarum.[2]  The veracity of the incident, as with many reported by Paris, is open to question.[3] This incident is popularly thought to have given rise to the phrase, ‘to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face’, though this cannot be established conclusively.[4]

Flores Historiarum relates that the Vikings were so incensed by the nun’s appearance that their lust was converted into fury.  They set fire to the convent with the nuns held within so that the women were consumed by the flames.[5] [Koren Whipp]

 



[1] Tracey-Anne Cooper, "Ebba, Abbess of Coldingham," Mary Hays, Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women, of All Ages and Countries (1803) Chawton House Library Series: Women’s Memoirs, ed. Gina Luria Walker, Memoirs of Women Writers Part II (Pickering & Chatto: London, 2013), vol. 8, 69, editorial notes, 529.

[2] See Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. H. R. Luard (London: Rolls Series, 1872); Flores Historiarum, ed. Henry Richards Luard, 3 vols., (London: Rolls series, 1890).

[3] Cooper, "Ebba, Abbess of Coldingham," vol. 8, 69, editorial notes, 529.

[4] Cooper, "Ebba, Abbess of Coldingham," vol. 8, 69, editorial notes, 529.

[5] As related in Alexander Allan Carr, A History of Coldingham Priory (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1836), 239.

 

Bibliography

Bartlett, Anne Clark. Male Authors, Female Readers: Representation and Subjectivity in Middle English Devotional Literature.  Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.

Brewster, H. Pomeroy.  Saints and Festivals of the Christian Church. New York: F. A. Stokes, 1904.

Carr, Alexander Allan. A History of Coldingham Priory. Longman and Co. London. 1886. Part II.

Cooper, Tracey-Anne. "Ebba, Abbess of Coldingham." Mary Hays, Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women, of All Ages and Countries (1803). Chawton House Library Series: Women’s Memoirs, ed. Gina Luria Walker, Memoirs of Women Writers Part II. Pickering & Chatto: London, 2013, vol. 8, 69, editorial notes, 529.

Flores Historiarum, ed. Henry Richards Luard, 3 vols. London: Rolls series, 1890.

Hays, Mary. “Ebba, Abbess of Coldingham.” Female Biography; or Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women of all Ages and Countries (6 volumes). London: R. Phillips, 1803, vol. 4, 67.

McNamara, Jo Ann. Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns Through Two Millennia. Boston: Harvard U. Press. 1996.

Paris, Matthew. Chronica Majora, ed. H. R. Luard. London: Rolls Series, 1872.

 

 

Resources:

Brooklyn Museum
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Ebba
http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/dinner_party/heritage_floor/ebba.php

 

 
Page citation:
Whipp, Koren, "Æbbe the Younger.” Project Continua (2014): [date accessed], http://www.projectcontinua.org/biographies/index/a_index/aebbe-the-younger/.